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Comment: Government’s plans to combat child obesity not just pie in the sky

While the initial public reaction to the government's announcement last week has been hostile, with claims it has not gone far enough, there is more for retailers and food manufacturers to consider than first meets the eye.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Comment: Government’s plans to combat child obesity not just pie in the sky

The on-going debate over the controversial sugar levy on soft drinks is clearly set to continue, and whilst the target of a minimum 20% reduction by 2020 across food products more widely appears voluntary, there is a thinly-veiled threat in that regular reporting is to be done by Public Health England, with "other levers" being trailed by the government if there has not been sufficient progress by that time.

The food products being initially targeted are the obvious ones, but again, this will also be extended to cover those soft drinks not covered by the sugar levy such as milk-based drinks. Slightly alarming for manufacturers and retailers is the section on clearer food labelling, given that the industry has already had to contend with very significant changes to labelling as a result of the EC Food Information Regulation, which came in in December 2014.

The strategy's statement that the decision to Brexit gives the UK more flexibility over what and how information should be presented is the first clear signal that that the UK may start picking and choosing which regulation it wishes to keep and which it does not. However, given the high level of exported food products this may not be welcomed with open arms by the industry.

Lastly, there is also the on-going consultation process by the Committee of Advertising Practice on advertising of high fat, sugar and salt products to children, so that debate continues too - although the possible prohibition of promotional pricing for these products has not appeared.

 

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