Scottish promo restrictions unenforceable, SGF says

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Scottish government plans to restrict in-store promotions on foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) are “badly thought through and unenforceable”, the Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF) has warned.

The SGF criticised the Scottish government for failing to define which products would be included in the proposed restrictions, making it almost impossible to assess the impact on the convenience sector.

The consultation document proposes a range of measures to restrict the ways that HFSS products can be sold, including restrictions on multi-buys, free samples, upselling and more.

The Scottish government has indicated that any new regulations would be enforced by local authorities.

SGF head of public affairs, Dr John Lee, said: “Retailers should be allowed to use a wide range of promotions to ensure they stay competitive and provide customers with the value for money they have come to expect.

“At the moment we simply don’t know the full range of products which would be caught up in new regulations – full technical specifications should have been published before this consultation was launched. It will be very difficult for retailers to accurately assess which products will be restricted.

“Additionally we fail to see how any new regulations – which will undoubtedly be quite baffling for both retailers and customers – can be effectively enforced.”

The Scottish government has also specified that it will establish an ‘expert technical panel’ to develop new definitions of foods deemed to be high in fat salt and sugar.

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive, James Lowman, highlighted that “convenience retailers have an important role to play in promoting healthy eating”, but raised concerns smaller stores may suffer.

“We believe that any measures to restrict the promotion and sale of HFSS products must be evidence based and not disproportionately affect small stores,” he said.

“Promotions are an important way that smaller stores deliver value and compete with other businesses, by restricting the use of these tools for certain products, smaller retailers will be disadvantaged.

“The Scottish Government must also consider that their proposals to restrict the areas of a store where these products can be sold will present significant problems for the smallest stores, who do not have the resources or flexibility to change the layout of their shop.”

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