UK government delays food multibuy and advertising restrictions

Out-Law News | 19 May 2022 | 12:55 pm | 1 min. read

The UK government has announced that it will delay planned restrictions on multibuy deals and advertising for foods high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) in England.

Rules banning multibuy deals on unhealthy foods and drinks, such as ‘buy one get one free’ offers, as well as restrictions on free soft drink refills, will be delayed for a year. The controls, which ministers had initially planned to impose in October 2022, form part of the government’s strategy to tackle obesity.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the delay came in light of the “unprecedented global economic situation” causing higher-than-expected energy and goods prices and leading to increased costs affecting businesses and consumers. The DHSC said the change would also give industry more time to prepare for the restrictions on advertising and allow ministers to monitor the impact of the ban on the cost of living.

Separate UK-wide restrictions banning adverts on TV for HFSS goods before the 9pm watershed - and paid-for adverts online - will also be paused for a year. The government said a delay to the Health and Care Bill receiving Royal Assent meant these controls would instead come into force January 2024. It added that there was “a growing recognition that the industry needs more time to prepare”. A consultation on TV and paid-for adverts online will be launched in the coming weeks.

Zoe Betts, food safety and trading law expert at Pinsent Masons, said: “Businesses will no doubt welcome the additional time to prepare for the advertising and pricing restrictions on HFSS products. They will, however, still need to ensure they comply with the location restrictions that will apply in several areas of stores - including near queuing areas – from October this year as planned.”