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Could do better: Research rates Government food placement legislation

Researchers from Southampton interviewed more than 100 stakeholders to review Government legislation restricting the promotion of unhealthy - high fat, sugar and salt - food products.

The current food system in England promotes a population diet that is high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS). To address this, the UK government has implemented legislation to restrict the promotion of HFSS products in prominent locations (e.g. store entrances, checkouts) in qualifying retailers since October 2022. This study investigated the perceived impact of the legislation for affected stakeholders.

Results show legislation to be a ‘good first step’ towards improving population diet but recognises this needed to be considered amongst a range of long-term obesity policies.

Conclusions of review

This legislation has the potential to reduce impulse HFSS purchases and makes a solid start towards creating healthier retail outlets for consumers. Immediate government actions to create a freely accessible HFSS calculator, support smaller businesses and provide additional resources to local authorities would support successful implementation and enforcement. Independent evaluation of the implementation of the legislation will enable monitoring of potential unintended consequences identified in this study and support refinement of the legislation. A long-term roadmap is necessary to outline strategies to support equal access to healthier and sustainable food across the whole food system within the next 20–30 years.

The review was carried out by researchers from the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre and Biomedical Research Centre based at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, School of Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Southampton and NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Wessex based in Southampton.


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