It was hailed as the pioneering and ground-breaking masterplan that would finally end the “nation’s damaging relationship with junk food”.
Instead a bizarre row over prawn crackers and poppadoms overshadowed a Scottish Government strategy to crack down on unhealthy eating as ministers appeared to stage a quickfire U-turn on the issue.
The move is part of a drive to restrict multi-buy deals and promotions on foods high in salt, fat and sugar.
Savoury snacks are among a group of “discretionary foods” being targeted by the government, according to a consultation on the issue launched yesterday. This includes “corn snacks, wheat snacks, prawn crackers, poppadums (sic)”, the paper states.
Any place where “targeted” foods are sold to the public in the course of business will be part of the crackdown. This will hit multi-buy deals, but also includes promotions such as “purchase rewards”, which would appear to include Scots takeaway customers being offered free prawn crackers or poppadoms if they spend a set amount of cash on a meal. Targeted foods “could not be part of a meal deal”, the paper states.
However, a Scottish Government spokesman last night claimed poppadoms and prawn crackers would be classed as part of a main meal – despite no mention of any such exemption in the consultation document.
“We have been clear that we are not looking to make restrictions in relation to main meals and it is not our intention to restrict restaurants from including savoury food, such as prawn crackers or poppadoms, as part of meals,” he said
The crackdown will also see cakes, pastries, crisps, sweets and soft drinks with sugar facing promotional restrictions.
Public health minister Joe Fitzpatrick said “decisive action” was needed to tackle Scotland’s poor diet, which had resulted in an obesity epidemic heightening the risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
“In many instances, we over consume and food and drink which should be occasional treats have become a daily habit for many of us, “ he said.
“By restricting at the point of purchase the promotion and marketing of foods that have next to no beneficial nutritional value, it is reasonable to expect less of these foods will be purchased, improving over time our diet-related health.”
Free samples, upselling, coupons and how these foods are displayed will be among the areas targeted by ministers. However, temporary price cuts and multi-packs are not included in the proposed measures.
Cancer Research UK says 110 tonnes of sugar are purchased on price promotion every day in Scotland.
Prevention expert Professor Linda Bauld said: “Junk food multi-buy offers encourage us to bulk buy and eat large quantities of unhealthy food, the consequences of which have become all too obvious in the nation’s growing waistlines.
“The public want action. Almost two-thirds of Scots support restrictions on multi-buy promotions.”