A new industry code to govern the marketing of products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS), particularly to children, is being drawn up by the Department of Health (DoH).

According to the minutes for the June 2013 meeting of the DoH’s Food Network high level steering group, responsible food promotion is very important to ministers, with the topic often appearing in the media.

The plans come after the introduction of new front-of-pack nutritional labelling, which 26 companies agreed to adopt last month.

 Early proposals for the plan include:

  • Defining a percentage of marketing spend/promotional offers that should be invested in ‘healthier’ foods.
  • Restricting multi-buy promotion in categories where there is evidence that this drives over consumption of less healthy foods.
  • Using store and restaurant menu layouts and offers to promote healthier choices through the use of promotion bins, checkouts and aisle ends.

The steering group will also look at on-pack marketing and in particular the use of licensed and brand equity characters that appeal to children. The DoH cited a 2011 UK Health Forum study that found that adults and children were subject to an avalanche of marketing that promoted unhealthy food.

The plan aims to fill the gap between regulatory arrangements for advertising of food to children and the voluntary codes of conduct on the matter.

A report on how the new code of conduct would be implemented is expected at the next quarterly meeting of the steering group in September.

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