Public Health Scotland and Food Standards Scotland have produced briefing paper that explores the promotion of foods high in fat, sugar or salt and describes the impact of these promotions on our health.

The briefing highlights that Scotland is far from meeting its healthy eating goals and the direct impact this has on the health of the population, particularly on children living in less affluent areas who are more likely to be exposed to unhealthy food on their high streets and where childhood obesity rates are highest.

It notes that improvements to the food environment, including increasing the number of healthy foods on promotion, will make it easier for people to access healthier options and ultimately improve the health of people in Scotland.

The briefing paper has been produced in support of the Scottish Government’s consultation on the proposed regulations to restrict the promotion of foods high in fat, sugar, or salt.

Paul Johnston, Chief Executive of Public Health Scotland, said:

“Nutritious food is essential for our health but our chances of accessing healthy food depend strongly on where we live. In Scotland, people living in communities associated with poverty, are less likely to have access to affordable, healthy food and are more likely to experience poor health as a result.

“Cost-of-living pressures have put healthier options out of reach for many. Very often, the food that is most accessible and heavily promoted are those most damaging to our health.

“We must ensure that eating well is the easiest thing to do – not the hardest. It’s only through direct action, like addressing marketing behaviours on unhealthy food, that we can improve Scotland’s health and reduce the widening health inequalities we are experiencing.

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s consultation as an important opportunity to drive change, a turning point to creating a food system for the people of Scotland that puts health as the number one priority.”

Geoff Ogle, Chief Executive of Food Standards Scotland, said:

“The Scottish Government’s consultation is a welcome move to target the heavy promotion of unhealthy food and is needed to rebalance our food environment and help address this critical public health issue.

“Promotions and marketing of unhealthy foods are a major part of our food environment and now more than ever what surrounds us, shapes us. We know that promotions are skewed towards these unhealthy options and can encourage us to buy more than we intended to. If now is not the time to take action, when is? When levels of over-weight and obesity reach 85% from the current two thirds of the adult population? “Not now” cannot be an argument any longer.

“We can’t rely on personal responsibility alone to change our eating habits any longer: that approach has not worked for at least forty years and won’t work now. And we have had significant increases in preventable diseases and higher costs to the NHS. Personal responsibility is a component, but it’s not the solution. We need to rebalance our food environment to support healthier options.”

View the ‘Transforming our food environment’ briefing paper

View the Scottish Government consultation on restricting promotions of food and drink high in fat, sugar or salt