A Timeline of HFSS Restrictions: From Nutritional Profiling Model to Advertising Repression | Reports

December 2005

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) publishes a nutrient profiling model to differentiate between unhealthy foods. It is intended to help Ofcom improve the balance of advertising to children. At the time, 80% of children’s ad spend was on HFSS food.

April 2007

Ofcom is introducing broadcast restrictions to reduce children’s exposure to unhealthy food TV advertising. The rules restrict television advertising of HFSS from programs and channels aimed at children under 16.

January 2011

The Department of Health publishes more technical guidance for determining HFSS foods. It uses a “simple” scoring system where points are awarded based on a product’s nutrient content, building on the 2005 model.

October 2015

A report from Public Health England blames the UK’s obesity crisis on supermarkets and their promotions of high-sugar foods, finding the industry spent £256million promoting unhealthy foods in 2014. The industry denies these allegations.

March 2016

David Cameron is abandoning the “boost” approach, announcing that a soft drink tax will start from April 2018 to tax sugary soft drinks. Six months earlier, Number 10 claimed there were ‘more effective ways to tackle’ obesity.

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January 2018

HFSS laws in their current form are emerging for the first time as Theresa May launches a consultation on restricting volume-based price promotions of HFSS food and beverages, and placements in leading stores.

July 2020

Boris Johnson is launching a new obesity strategy for the UK after a stint in intensive care with Covid. Measures include banning unhealthy food ads, ending buy-one-get-one-free promotions and calorie labeling in restaurants.

November 2020

A consultation is launched on the total restriction of online advertising of HFSS products. It comes shortly after the government confirmed plans to introduce a 9pm TV time slot for all HFSS advertising.

December 2020

The government says the HFSS restrictions will come into effect from April 2022, giving the industry 16 months to prepare. The industry says details are lacking, for example on the size of stores the rules will apply to.

July 2021

The government is delaying restrictions on HFSS foods by six months until October 2022 after strong industry lobbying, supermarket bosses argued the scale of changes needed to store layouts made the timetable exist “impossible”.

April 2022

Detailed new guidance clarifies many unknown questions about the rules, including the size of companies affected and how they will be applied. However, many companies say it’s still unclear exactly which products are out of reach.

May 2022

Crackdowns on in-store promotions and junk food advertising are delayed 12 months to October 2023 and January 2024 respectively. It comes as manufacturers continue to push for the plans to be scrapped altogether.

August 2022

Liz Truss vows to scrap HFSS rules if she wins Tory leadership race. “These taxes are over. Talking about whether or not someone should buy a two-for-one deal? No. There’s definitely enough,’ she told the Mail.

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September 13, 2022

The Truss government is said to be reviewing its entire anti-obesity strategy, including HFSS rules from under three weeks. Investors, campaigners and Tory MPs are criticizing all plans and calling on Truss to stay the course.

September 29, 2022

The government is establishing a statutory instrument in parliament to back up the ban on HFSS promotions in prominent places, which is due to start in two days. Activists fear the decision could be overturned yet again.

October 1, 2022

The ban begins on HFSS products in leading stores. However, some sources say a review is still ongoing over the long-term future of the rules. It is still unclear when a decision will be confirmed by the government.

October 1, 2023

The ban starts on HFSS promotions such as bogof. The movement was confirmed in the statutory instrument. As of October 2022, there were nearly 2,000 HFSS multi-buy promotions across the top five retailers (see above).

January 1, 2024

The ban is expected to begin on HFSS food advertising online and on TV before 9 p.m. However, unlike the other two bans in October 2022 and 2023, there is so far no legal instrument to confirm that it will continue under the Truss government.

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