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14th May 2022

Boris Johnson accused of ‘playing politics’ with kid’s health as ban on BOGOF junk food deals delayed

April Curtin

Around 1 in 5 children aged 10 to 11 are thought to be obese in the UK

The government has pushed back plans to crackdown on unhealthy food promotions and TV adverts about junk food, leading some to accuse the Prime Minister of “playing politics” with kid’s health.

Free refills on soft drinks and Buy-One-Get-One-Free (Bogof) offers on products that are high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) were supposed to be banned from October this year, as part of the government’s Obesity Strategy.

But these plans have now been delayed until October 2023 while officials assess the impact it would have on household finances amid the cost of living crisis, the Department of Health said.

The ban on junk food TV adverts before 9pm has also been pushed back, and won’t come into effect until January 2024.

Health campaigners have since accused Boris Johnson of “playing politics” with children’s health.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has “given in to his own MPs” according to one professor (Photo: Getty)

Barbara Crowther, of the Children’s Food Campaign, said ministers should be moving faster on multi-buy deals instead of “delaying and dithering”.

She said: “Obesity is spiking and millions of families can’t afford to put proper food on the table. Multi-buy offers make people spend more on junk, and less on healthy food.

“This delay threatens the UK target to halve childhood obesity by 2030. Boris is playing politics with our children’s health.”

Professor Graham MacGregor, a cardiologist at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar, said the delays contradicted the government’s “levelling up” agenda.

He said: “Boris Johnson could have left a legacy of being the first prime minister to address obesity in a meaningful way, particularly in restricting advertising and promotion of unhealthy food which were his flagship policies.

“Instead, he has given in to his own MPs, and an aggressive food industry, who, ironically, were starting to comply with these new policies.”

Obesity is a common problem in the UK that’s estimated to affect around 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 5 children aged 10 to 11, according to the NHS.

Despite the delays, public health minister Maggie Throup has insisted the government remains dedicated to tackling childhood obesity in the UK.

She said: “Pausing restrictions on deals like ‘buy one get one free’ will allow us to understand its impact on consumers in light of an unprecedented global economic situation.”

Kate Halliwell, the Food and Drink Federation’s chief scientific officer, welcomed the delay to the junk food advertising ban, as she said it would give the industry time to prepare for a change in the law.

Last month, calorie labelling was introduced in large restaurants, cafes and takeaways under the government’s Obesity Strategy.

Restrictions on where less healthy products will be placed in supermarkets are currently due to come into effect in October, though Kellogg’s said it would take the government to court over this.

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