Want to shop healthier? Restrictions on promotion of unhealthy food may help…

23 January 2019

Want to shop healthier? Restrictions on promotion of unhealthy food may help…

On Thursday 10th January my daily media update from my RCPSG colleagues dropped into my inbox.  It had been a busy day on the Wednesday as we finalised and submitted our response to the Scottish Government Consultation on restrictions of the promotion and marketing of foods high in fat, sugar and salt.  A few minutes to update on media stories would be welcome relief.  Immediately I was struck by two headlines “Retailers condemn Scottish plans to curb junk food promotions” beside “Megan is a 38 year old single parent.  I had to tell her she was too obese for a heart transplant.”

How have we got to this position? A position where industry want to make their profits out of food that does us harm.

Our poor diet means that 65% of Scottish adults are overweight or obese. We also see alarming numbers of diseases linked to obesity: type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

The proposals in the consultation were to restrict some types of promotion of unhealthy foods such as cakes, savoury snacks or confectionery. In Scotland we eat too much of these foods and promotions are partly to blame. While we may think that by buying biscuits or chocolate on offer we save money, research showed that promotions make us spend more in the long term and consume more of what is on offer. And every time we buy unhealthy food, we make it more of a habit.

When the proposals are implemented, less unhealthy products will be on offer and displayed at supermarket aisle ends or checkouts. This will help everyone to avoid temptations when shopping for food and ultimately will help improve our diets. While the same products would still be available in supermarkets, the unhealthy ones would not be pushed in our faces, as they are now: go to your closest store and look at what’s displayed at aisle ends.

We know that promotions of unhealthy food are not the only reason why so many people in Scotland struggle with excess body weight. There are many factors at play and many areas that need addressed across affordability, accessibility and acceptability of unhealthy and healthy foods.  To reduce obesity levels in Scotland many of these factors need to be addressed. Tackling promotions of unhealthy food is one of those small steps but a crucial and urgent one.

Read our response to the consultation on restricting promotion of unhealthy food and drink here.