Promotions on food and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) in retailers will be restricted from April 2022, the government has confirmed.

The measures include:

  • Offers for unhealthy foods like ‘buy one get one free’ and two-for-one promotions in prominent locations in stores and online to be restricted from April 2022
  • Free refills of sugary soft drinks will also be prohibited in the eating-out sector
  • Restrictions will apply to medium and large stores.

An 8-week technical consultation has launched on GOV.UK to seek views from industry stakeholders and enforcement bodies on how these policies can be implemented.

The restrictions on promotions are:

  • location restrictions at store entrances, aisle ends and checkouts and their online equivalents (homepages, landing pages for other food categories, and shopping basket or payment pages)
  • volume price restrictions will prohibit retailers from offering promotions such as ‘buy one get one free’ or ‘3 for 2’ offers on HFSS products
  • free refills of sugary soft drinks will be prohibited in the eating-out sector
  • the location restrictions will only apply to stores over 2,000 square feet - specialist retailers, such as chocolate shops, are exempt from the location restrictions
  • prepacked food and drink in the following categories will be restricted if they are considered HFSS: soft drinks, cakes, chocolate confectionery, sugar confectionery, ice cream, morning goods (for example, pastries), puddings, sweet biscuits, breakfast cereals, yogurts, milk-based drinks with added sugar, juice-based drinks with added sugar, pizza, ready meals, meal centres, including breaded and battered products, crisps and savoury snacks, chips and similar potato products.

The move is part of the government's plan to stamp down on the nation's obesity levels and has been welcomed by health campaigners.

The consultation has been welcomed by Professor Graham MacGregor, chair of Action on Sugar, and dentist Dr Saul Konviser, from the Dental Wellness Trust.

Professor Graham MacGregor said: 'Finally, Downing Street is acting decisively with a bold first step to restrict the sale of junk food on multi-buy offers and at checkouts, and taking on one of the biggest threats to Britain’s future health – childhood obesity.

'This important policy, specifically targeting the most sugar-laden food and drinks packed with excessive calories, will provide a level playing field for responsible retailers, enabling them to promote healthier options to families.

'To bypass the restrictions and improve our health further, manufacturers have the opportunity to reformulate their less healthy products into healthier versions over the next two years when the Government, which has already bowed to industry lobbying and watered down their own Childhood Obesity Plan, has promised the restrictions will come into force.

'Putting junk food multi-buy offers in the aisles and at the checkouts is just another way of food companies sneaking their unhealthy products into your basket. Now is the time for healthier food to take centre stage.'

Dr Saul Konviser, from the Dental Wellness Trust, said: 'Not only will the new restrictions on selling junk food on multi-buy offers and at checkouts help tackle childhood obesity, it will also significantly reduce the number of cases of tooth decay – one of the most common non-communicable diseases worldwide.

'Nearly 45,000 hospital operations were performed to remove rotten teeth in 2018/19 which is a stark reminder that too much sugar, especially in children's diets, can have dire consequences. And what’s most concerning is this is all entirely preventable.'