The Welsh government has unveiled plans to restrict food high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS) in an attempt to tackle health problems linked to obesity and diabetes.

Its planned legislation, due to come into force in 2025, includes restricting meal deals linked to unhealthy products. Such deals typically bundle together items such as sandwiches, crisps, confectionery and drinks for a set price.

Volume-based promotions, such as multi-buys, and restrictions on where unhealthy products can be displayed are also part of the devolved government’s plans.

The measures announced are in contrast to what is happening in neighbouring England where plans for similar changes were delayed further this month by the UK government, which said it would be unfair to restrict options during a cost-of-living crisis and when food prices remain high.

Announcing its proposals this morning (27 June), the Welsh government said that “whilst this would not ban meal deals or other types of promotion, it would restrict the inclusion of the unhealthiest products”.

It added: “Products that are high in fat, sugar or salt tend to be more heavily promoted and given higher prominence in stores. This encourages unplanned impulse buys, with people buying, consuming and spending more on unhealthy foods than they intended.

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“Over 60% of adults in Wales are above a healthy weight, and over a quarter of children are overweight or obese by the time they start school. This can have a significant effect on people’s health, with levels of obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes at record levels in Wales.”

The Welsh government said it will work closely with the food industry to provide guidance and support it in reformulating products to reduce levels of fat, sugar or salt.

The government pointed to Public Health Wales, recent Time To Talk Public Health survey, which it said showed strong public support for government action to make food healthier, with 57% of people agreed that governments should use financial tools like taxes to reduce sugar in foods with high levels.

The Welsh Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle, said: “This legislation will take forward our commitment to improve diets and help prevent obesity in Wales.”

She added: “This is an important part of the jigsaw as part of our Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales strategy as part of a multi-component approach. Our next generation deserve a different ‘normal’ where healthier foods are more available, affordable and appealing, and high-fat, sugar and salt foods are not a core part of our diet. Our current and future generations deserve better.”

However, the proposed clampdown has been criticised by the Welsh Retail Consortium. It told UK broadcaster the BBC: “We are particularly concerned over possible plans to restrict price promotions and to restrict products in meal deals.

“Promotions within categories allow retailers and brands to compete to attract customers, improving competition and keeping prices down.”

The legislation will be introduced next year and rolled out by 2025. A consultation on enforcement measures will take place later this year.

It will apply to all businesses which employ more than 50 people.