sugar confectionery

Local authorities in England are taking a light touch approach to enforcement of High Fat, Salt & Sugar (HFSS) regulations, exclusive research by Convenience Store has revealed.

Following a Freedom of Information request from Convenience Store, it was revealed that just two local councils in England have identified stores that are in breach of the HFSS guidance.

The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames has reported the most compliance visits, logging 10-15 visits to five large food retailers and HFSS products have been identified in restricted locations in four stores. It has not issued any improvement notices based on these visits.

Hertfordshire County Council said it carried out one visit at the request of the business, with HFSS products found in restricted areas. The council has not issued any improvement notices either.

While most councils have said HFSS will form part of the routine inspection of premises under Food Safety legislation, several have said they operate an intelligence-led inspection and enforcement regime so are only likely to carry out an inspection if they receive a number of complaints about the issue.

One local authority, Newham Council, said that it is still in a post-pandemic recovery programme and that “the businesses to which this legislation applies are, for the most part, within the lower tiers of risk and inspections are more likely to come to at the end of the recovery programme, next quarter and beyond”.

A previous Freedom of Information request from Convenience Store found that local authorities have to share a pot of £179,000 for the first year of the new legislation, reducing to £102,000 for the second and third years. With 344 local food authorities active in England, that amounts to £520.34 per authority for the entire first year, dropping to £296.51 for years two and three.

Location restriction elements of the legislation came into effect on 1 October 2022 with volume promotion guidelines being delayed until 1 October 2023 by the government in light of the rising cost of living.

In 2021, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) estimated that small shops face a £13,000 bill to ensure compliance with the regulations, while larger stores could face costs of up to £100,000 to alter their store layouts.

Commenting on the enforcement data findings, ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Thousands of retailers have made significant changes to their stores in recent months to comply with HFSS legislation after a prolonged period of uncertainty. It’s reassuring to see that Trading Standards are not taking a heavy-handed approach to enforcement on HFSS, but it is important that the rules continue to be understood and applied consistently, both by retailers and by the enforcement community, and we urge anyone with questions about the regulations to make use of our comprehensive guidance.”