Greater transparency needed as HFSS legislation comes into force

We are all guilty of the occasional indulgence, but in 2021, 28 per cent of the total UK population was deemed to be “obese”, and the country was ranked the 36th most obese nation in the world

The problem has become a public-health emergency, with the Government announcing that the UK is in the throes of a  “national struggle with obesity.” Indeed, the prime minister’s own severe bout with coronavirus was blamed on the 57-year old being “significantly overweight.” 

To tackle the obesity epidemic, legislation to prohibit the promotion of food and drinks judged high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS), will come into effect from April 2022, with the aim of wiping “billions off the national calorie count.” 

Currently, it is estimated that one in five primary-school children living in the UK is classified as obese, the highest rate in Western Europe. Obesity-related illness is costing the NHS £4.2bn a year.   

HFSS products have been identified as significant contributors to daily calorie and sugar intakes, and will be categorised using the Nutrient Profiling Model, created by the Food Standards Agency in 2004–05. 

So, what will the new legislation entail for manufacturers and retailers?

For retailers 

  • There will be a ban on off-shelf display – such as store entrances, aisle ends and checkouts – for all HFSS products
  • This will apply to most physical stores with 2,000 sq ft floor space, exempting specialist stores like chocolatiers 
  • The ban will apply to online locations such as homepages, landing pages and checkout pages
  • Multibuy promotions, such as “buy one get one free” or “3 for 2” offers will be prohibited

For manufacturers

Prepacked food and drink in the following categories will be restricted if they are considered to be HFSS:

  • Breakfast cereals
  • Cakes
  • Chips and similar potato products
  • Chocolate confectionery 
  • Crisps and savoury snacks 
  • Ice cream 
  • Juice-based drinks with added sugar 
  • Meal centres, including breaded and battered products 
  • Milk-based drinks with added sugar 
  • Morning goods (for example, pastries) 
  • Pizza 
  • Puddings 
  • Ready meals 
  • Soft drinks
  • Sugar confectionery 
  • Sweet biscuits 
  • Yoghurts

High-calorie foods which aren't classified as “junk foods”, such as avocados, honeys and olive oil, will be exempted. 

Other measures to limit exposure to HFSS products will include:

  • A blanket ban on the advertising of HFSS items before a 9pm watershed
  • Calories to be displayed on eat-out menus 
  • Free refills of HFSS soft drinks will be prohibited in the eating-out sector 
  • Alcoholic beverages to feature a calorie count

The need for nutritional transparency

Beginning with the “traffic light” front-of-pack labelling in 2016, the Soft Drinks Industry Levy – or sugar tax – and now HFSS regulations, guidance and legislation around nutritional information is increasingly dictating how products are formulated, marketed and consumed by the general public.

This all adds up to the need for greater visibility of what goes into the products we buy, whether that is purely the mandated nutritional data, or further extrapolations of that information, such as serving recommendations and health warnings.

Since 2018, our productDNA platform has been providing a way for the grocery supply chain – from brands and manufacturers to retailers – to share verified product information with each other using a common language. 

The platform provides a single, proven approach to managing product data across the whole industry, with all the benefits that brings in terms of cost and time savings, accuracy and consistency.

In a world where consumers and policy makers are placing more emphasis on the details of  day-to-day items, productDNA gives everyone involved the certainty that they can be as informed and protected as possible, with all of the right information at hand to make healthy-eating decisions for them and their families.  


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