Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has published a new report on ‘Consumption of foods and drinks considered within policy proposals for the restriction of HFSS promotions in adults (16+ yr) living in Scotland’. The report is available on the FSS website.

This report presents an analysis of data from the 2021 Scottish Health Survey (SHeS) and provides up-to-date information on the consumption of discretionary foods as well as additional food categories considered within policy proposals for the restriction of high fat, sugar and/or salt (HFSS) promotions. 

Key findings of the report show:

  • On average, discretionary foods and sugar-containing soft drinks provided 260 kcal per day, accounting for 15% of total energy intakes, 17% of total fat, 18% of saturated fat and 38% of free sugars intake.
  • Sweet biscuits were the biggest contributor to intakes of calories, fats and free sugars.  Sugar-containing soft drinks alone contributed an additional 9% to intakes of free sugars.
  • Whilst intakes of discretionary foods were greatest among the oldest age groups (75 years and above), younger adults aged between 16 – 35 years old consumed the greatest amount of sugar containing soft drinks. Intakes of sugar containing soft drinks was also greater among adults living in the most deprived areas, as was the contribution these drinks made to free sugars.
  • The mean intake from all additional categories was 124g/d, providing an average of 207 kcal per day and accounting for 13% of total energy intakes, 11% of total fat and free sugars intakes, and 10% of saturated fat intakes.
  • Of the additional foods, breakfast cereals contributed the most to energy, total fat and free sugars. The yoghurts, fromage frais and dairy desserts category was the top contributor to intakes of saturated fat, alongside pizza.
  • Men consumed a greater quantity of the additional categories combined compared to females, with a greater proportion of energy, fats and free sugars coming from these foods in 2021.
  • In total, discretionary foods, sugar-containing soft drinks and the additional foods contributed 28% to average intakes of calories, 18% to average intakes of total fat and saturated fat and 49% to average intakes of free sugars among adults in 2021.

Overall the report provides useful evidence to inform development of policy to improve diet and related health, including any future restriction on the promotion of these foods and drinks. Given that diet in Scotland is too high in saturated fat and free sugars in particular, measures which support consumers to consume fewer HFSS products (including discretionary foods and drinks) would contribute towards achieving our Scottish Dietary Goals.

In 2016 and 2017 FSS proposed a suite of measures to improve dietary health in Scotland, including a recommendation that the promotion of high fat, sugar or salt (known as HFSS) food and drink be restricted. This recommendation has been incorporated into the Scottish Government’s (SG) Healthier Future Delivery Plan, which sets out a wide range of actions to support people to eat well and maintain a healthy weight, while reducing diet-related inequalities. The SG plan to consult on the detail of proposed regulations to restrict the promotion of less healthy food and drinks in autumn 2023. This will include proposals to restrict prominent in-store price promotions which encourage people to buy more than they actually need.

In July 2022, the SG consulted on proposals to restrict promotions of food and drink high in fat, sugar or salt. The consultation proposed to target discretionary food and drink products: confectionery, sweet biscuits, crisps and savoury snacks, cakes and pastries, sugary drinks, puddings, as well as ice cream and dairy desserts. These products are high in calories, fats and sugar and can represent around 25% of all food and drink volume purchased into the home.