The Scottish Government has decided to pause plans to limit the way foods high in fat, sugar or salt can be promoted in the country and will not be taking forward the Restricting Food Promotions Bill. 

In September last year, the government pledged to bring the Bill on Restricting Foods Promotions forward before the end of this parliament in an attempt to address the obesity problem in Scotland. 

In answer to a parliamentary question from Paisley MSP George Adam, as to when the bill would be introduced, public health minister Joe Fitzpatrick said: “We are no longer planning to introduce the Restricting Foods Promotions Bill in this Parliament. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact, including on the food and drink and retail industries and on consumer behaviour. It is not yet clear what its long term impact will be. It is important we understand this fully and that we assess the economic and equality impacts of our proposed measures post-pandemic.

“Pausing the introduction of the Bill provides us with an opportunity to take stock. It enables us to take into account the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown, including on people’s diet and healthy weight. We will be able to consider fully whether a more wide-ranging Bill is required to tackle Scotland’s diet and weight problem after the pandemic.”

He added: “Tackling poor diet and overweight is a public health priority and remains a priority for this government. We are taking wide-ranging action to help people make healthier eating choices. As set out in our 2018 Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan, our ambition is to halve childhood obesity by 2030 and significantly reduce diet-related health inequalities.

“We remain fully committed to restricting the promotion and marketing of foods high in fat, sugar or salt where they are sold to the public and will seek to progress this measure as soon as it is possible to do so. Work already underway to further improve the evidence base to underpin the proposals will continue. We will also continue to engage with the other administrations in the UK to explore the scope for the possible alignment of policy and legislation.”

Lorraine Tulloch, programme lead of Obesity Action Scotland said: “This is disappointing news. While I understand that the food environment in Scotland has changed radically during the pandemic it has also become increasingly clear that people with obesity have had much worse outcomes from COVID-19, with an increased risk of being admitted to intensive care and of dying.

“If we want to secure the health, resilience and longevity of the people of Scotland then tackling overweight and obesity must be a priority. Obesity Action Scotland called on Scottish government to redouble its efforts to tackle obesity in the recovery phase and this step will hold up progress. I would urge the Scottish government to re-introduce this measure as soon as possible.”