Say goodbye to your meal deal as you know it! SNP threatens to strip crisps and fizzy drinks out of £3 lunch offers in war on obesity

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Unhealthy meal deals are set to be scrapped under SNP plans to tackle Scotland’s obesity crisis.

Ministers have called on crisps and fizzy drinks to be stripped from deals, reigniting the war on unhealthy snacks. 

If the sweeping new proposals are given the go ahead, consumers would likely be nudged towards carrot sticks or fruit. 

Evening dine-in deals could also fall victims to the plan, which health campaigners insist is vital to curb Scotland’s bulging waistline, reduce ill health and ease pressure on the NHS. 

But critics argued Scots ‘should be trusted to make their own choices’, while retail bosses warned consumers would have to pay more during the cost-of-living crisis.

Ministers have called on crisps and fizzy drinks to be stripped from deals, reigniting the war on unhealthy snacks. If the sweeping new proposals are given the go ahead, consumers would likely be nudged towards carrot sticks or fruit 

Tess White, Scottish Conservative deputy health spokeswoman, said: ‘Scots should be trusted to make their own choices when it comes to healthy eating. 

‘The responsibility is more in the hands of SNP ministers to step up their game in promoting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.’

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said that it appeared ministers were ‘determined to put up prices on a range of products despite consumers reeling from a cost-of-living crisis’.

Almost a quarter of adults north of the border purchase either a lunch or evening meal deal at least once per week, according to Government polling.

The options floated in the 12-week consultation, unveiled yesterday, are aimed at ‘creating a food environment which better supports healthier choices’. 

HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR BODY MASS INDEX – AND WHAT IT MEANS

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on your weight in relation to your height. 

Standard Formula:

  • BMI = (weight in pounds / (height in inches x height in inches)) x 703

Metric Formula:

  • BMI = (weight in kilograms / (height in meters x height in meters))

Measurements:

  • Under 18.5: Underweight
  • 18.5 – 24.9: Healthy
  • 25 – 29.9: Overweight
  • 30 – 39.9: Obese 
  • 40+: Morbidly obese 

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By ‘rebalancing meal deals towards healthier options’, the legislation would target any food or drink classed as being high in fat, sugar or salt that contribute most to obesity. 

Supermarkets including Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s offer meal deals that combine a sandwich, drink and snack for a set price. 

These can cost as little as £3.40. 

Instead of being prohibited entirely, customers could be able to purchase one unhealthy item, such as a bag of crisps or a sugary drink, but not both.

Under the proposals, junk food would also no longer be displayed at checkouts or other prominent locations in a bid to reduce impulse purchases. 

Similar rules, excluding meal deals, were due to come into force in England last year but have been postponed until 2025.

In June last year, the Welsh Government announced it would clampdown on unhealthy meal deals and supermarket temporary price reductions for foods high in fat, sugar or salt to tackle the obesity crisis. 

Officials said it would be introduced in 2024 and rolled out across the country by 2025. 

Obesity rates have been on the rise for decades, thanks to increasingly sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets.

Geoff Ogle, chief executive of Food Standards Scotland (FSS), said there was a need to ‘rebalance our food environment’ to address obesity as a ‘critical public health issue’.

He added: ‘If now is not the time to take action, when is? 

‘When levels of overweight and obesity reach 85 per cent from the current two thirds of the adult population? “Not now” cannot be an argument any longer.

‘We can’t rely on personal responsibility alone to change our eating habits any longer: that approach has not worked for at least 40 years and won’t work now.’

Meanwhile, public health minister Jenni Minto said: ‘We need to address the high levels of excess weight, obesity and poor diet we know are contributing to worsening trends in Scotland’s health. 

Around two thirds of over-16s in England (64 per cent) are overweight, including tens of thousands who are morbidly obese. This is an 11 per cent rise on 1993, when 53 per cent were considered overweight. Experts blame sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets. Source: Health Survey for England 2021

Around two thirds of over-16s in England (64 per cent) are overweight, including tens of thousands who are morbidly obese. This is an 11 per cent rise on 1993, when 53 per cent were considered overweight. Experts blame sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets. Source: Health Survey for England 2021

One million patients, who were a healthy weight with a body mass index (BMI) of 18 to 25, were calculated to cost the NHS an average of £638 each in 2019, the final year of the study. By comparison, severely obese patients with a BMI of 40 and above cost more than double - at £1,375 annually. Meanwhile, the NHS spent £979 a year on obese patients with a BMI of 30 to 35, which increased to £1,178 a year for those with a BMI of 35-40

One million patients, who were a healthy weight with a body mass index (BMI) of 18 to 25, were calculated to cost the NHS an average of £638 each in 2019, the final year of the study. By comparison, severely obese patients with a BMI of 40 and above cost more than double – at £1,375 annually. Meanwhile, the NHS spent £979 a year on obese patients with a BMI of 30 to 35, which increased to £1,178 a year for those with a BMI of 35-40

‘The association between these issues and health outcomes such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers has been established for some time.

‘We want to ensure Scotland is a place where we eat well and have a healthy weight.

‘The Scottish Government is committed to restricting promotions of foods high in fat, sugar or salt at the point of purchase as research shows this is when people make decisions about what and how much to buy, for themselves and their families.’

It comes as a report by charity Nesta yesterday urged the UK Government to enforce ‘healthiness’ targets on retailers.

It said if the UK’s 11 largest supermarkets ‘nudged’ customers into making healthier choices, the average Brit would consume 80 fewer calories per day, helping to cut obesity levels by 23 per cent within three years.

In 2020, ex-PM Boris Johnson announced a ‘world-leading’ obesity action plan, partly inspired by how his own weight put him at greater risk of severe illness when he caught Covid. 

But Rishi Sunak’s government has delayed a ban on promoting buy-one-get-one-free deals on unhealthy snacks until 2025, blaming the cost of living crisis.

A curb on television adverts in England for junk food before 9pm and on paid-for adverts online has also been delayed.

Health experts have long called for 'harmful' junk food like Coco pops to be stripped of health claims and banned from advertising. Last week, they said 'black label octagon' label warnings should be brandished across foods with little health benefit. Similar ones are already used in Chile (pictured)

Health experts have long called for ‘harmful’ junk food like Coco pops to be stripped of health claims and banned from advertising. Last week, they said ‘black label octagon’ label warnings should be brandished across foods with little health benefit. Similar ones are already used in Chile (pictured) 

In Henry Dimbleby’s national food strategy, the latter part of which was published in 2021, the co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain, advised a ‘snack tax’ on foods with high sugar and salt content to encourage manufactures to make food healthier.

Last year, however, the co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain resigned from his post at the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs, arguing ministers were refusing to impose restrictions on the junk food industry due to an obsession with ‘ultra-free-market ideology’. 

Health experts have long called for ‘harmful’ junk food like Coco pops to be stripped of health claims and banned from advertising.

Last week, they said ‘black label octagon’ label warnings should be brandished across foods with little health benefit. Similar ones are already used in Chile. 

They also urged Brits not to bank on weight loss jabs as a quick fix to solve the crisis in the same meeting with Lords, warning they ‘are not the answer’ and ‘will inevitably cause problems down the line’.

Latest NHS data shows 26 per cent of adults in England are obese and a further 38 per cent are overweight but not obese.

WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count

• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain

• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on

• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options

• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)

• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts

• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day

• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day

Source: NHS Eatwell Guide 

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