A healthy challenge

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Scotland has well documented problems with diet-related ill health and obesity, and the Scottish government is currently considering a refresh of its diet and obesity strategy.

Into the debate has stepped Food Standards Scotland with a report which aims to transform the retail environment to enable healthier purchasing.

The report makes a series of recommendations, many of which manage to both baffle and enrage at the same time.

There is a recommendation that grocery retailers should be subject to a licensing regime akin to alcohol licensing, where the store is expected to meet certain standards in relation to products, placement, price and promotion. Next – wait for it – is a recommendation that grocery stores be subject to restrictions in opening hours!

We then progress to calls for legislation to clamp down on promotions, and a call for the soft drinks levy to be applied to other categories.

What Food Standards Scotland needs to do is recognise the big steps forward industry has already taken. The SGF Healthy Living Programme goes from strength to strength and manufacturers have made big strides forward in reformulation, reducing pack sizes, reducing trans fats and improved labelling. Meanwhile, the consumers’ responsibility for what they eat continues to be ignored.

Food Standards Scotland is essentially an advisory body and has little power to implement any of this. It is a very useful indicator, though, of the landscape we are moving into. If you want to look into the future it sometimes pays to look over the border.

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