Welsh Say “Ych a fi” to Unhealthy Food

The Welsh have said ‘Ych a fi’ (‘there’s disgusting’) to unhealthy meal deals, with plans to restrict multi-buy offers for food with a high fat, sugar or salt content.

The Welsh government’s proposals to tackle obesity and diabetes include a ban on temporary price drops and multi-buy offers on the unhealthiest foods. The plan is to introduce the legislation in 2025.

The regulations will ban lunchtime deals such as a sandwich, drink and snack for a set price, as well as restricting certain other combinations which have fat or salt levels above a certain amount. But some retailers have raised concerns about the timing of the announcement, as food prices remain high and food price inflation is still rampant.

The proposed restrictions will also do away with:

  • Temporary price cuts on unhealthy foods
  • Two-for-one offers on unhealthy foods
  • Promotion of unhealthy foods as ‘impulse buys’ at checkouts

The regulations will apply to all businesses employing over 50 people. Similar changes have been proposed for England, but are currently being blocked by the government, and in Scotland, restrictions on the promotion of junk food were paused during the Covid pandemic.

The proposed Welsh regulations are not universally popular, with other suggestions including more prominent health warnings on unhealthy food. Filco supermarkets director Matthew Hunt described the timing as “ludicrous”, saying “It is notable Rishi Sunak has recently been talking about relaxing this legislation, that it in itself is inflationary and not the right time to be taking this approach especially when food inflation in particular is as high as it is.

“What should be avoided at all costs is the creation of confusion caused by different governments not being aligned with what is included and excluded.”

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The Welsh Retail Consortium commented: “We are particularly concerned over possible plans to restrict price promotions and to restrict products in meal deals. Promotions within categories allow retailers and brands to compete to attract customers, improving competition and keeping prices down.”

The Welsh government says that there is strong public support for action to help people make healthier food choices. According to Public Health Wales data, 60% of people in Wales are overweight, and one in four children are obese by the age of five. The number of people in Wales with type 2 diabetes is also at a record level.

Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing Lynne Neagle said: “This legislation will take forward our commitment to improve diets and help prevent obesity in Wales.

“Our aim is to rebalance our food environments towards healthier products, so that the healthy choice becomes the easy choice.”

Dr Ilona Johnson, consultant in Public Health for Public Health Wales, said: “We know that from the evidence that policies targeting the food environment are effective and a strong legislative framework is an important step in helping us to shift the balance towards healthier choices and healthier people.”

Welsh Conservative spokesman for mental health, James Evans said: “Obesity is a pressing issue across the western world that is a costly drain on the limited resources of our precious Welsh NHS and it is a shame that is has taken the Welsh government this long to address the problem.

“However, during the cost of living pressures we are all facing, we need cast-iron assurances from the Welsh Labour government that they do not intend to ban meal deals and that any new regulations will not increase the average weekly cost for shoppers.”

In England, rules banning multi-buy deals on foods and drinks high in fat, salt, or sugar – including buy one get one free deals – will be delayed for another two years until October 2025.

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The policy had already been subject to a delay until October 2023. This will now be extended to allow the government to continue to review the impact of the restrictions on the consumers and businesses in light of the unprecedented global economic situation.

Economies across the world have been affected by higher-than-expected global energy and goods prices, leading to increased costs across supply chains.

The delay means shoppers will be able to continue taking advantage of multibuy offers on all foods.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

I firmly believe in people’s right to choose – and at a time when household budgets are under continuing pressure from the global rise in food prices, it is not fair for government to restrict the options available to consumers on their weekly shop.

It is right that we consider carefully the impact on consumers and businesses, while ensuring we’re striking the balance with our important mission to reduce obesity and help people live healthier lives.”

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