CURRENT ISSUES
Food and Drink

More than 330,000 foodservice operators and 73,000 retailers rely on FWD members for the supply of fresh, chilled and frozen food – often delivered daily, and ready to go straight on the menu or the counter.

FWD represents wholesalers in reactive action by government, for example taking the lead in representing the industry on issues such as Free School Meals, Holiday Hunger and wider health and obesity issues. FWD is on the board of the School Food Plan Alliance, which brings together organisations with an interest in school food and attend the regular meetings of the School Food All Party Parliamentary Group.

We are also actively involved in the formulation of food regulation. We work with the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs to produce guidance on the new Food Information to Consumers regulations, and bring members together to discuss how best to implement the requirements.

In addition, FWD represents members’ views on economic controls on food supply, such as the Soft Drinks Levy, to ensure that unintended consequences of intervention are taken into account, such as the growth of a grey market.

FWD recognises the role that alcohol plays in contributing to anti-social behaviour and health harms, and supports across-the-board measures that consider the supply of alcohol equally, such as minimum unit pricing.

on your plate
On the radar this month:

Wales consults on obesity

January 21:  The Welsh Government have released a new consultation on obesity. Proposals reflect those made by the Government’s of the UK and Scotland, with items around TV advertising restrictions, out of home restrictions, and promotional and multibuy changes.Notably, there are also plans to restrict the sale of energy drinks to under 16s.

The consultation seeks to:
  • Encourage healthier drinking habits by consulting on proposals to ban the sale of energy drinks to children under the age of 16 and restricting free refills in pubs and restaurants as well as introducing a maximum portion size on soft drinks.
  • Limit the promotion of unhealthy foods. The Welsh Government wish to support a 9pm watershed as well as banning the use of brand generated and licensed character/celebrity endorsement of products across all media. They also want to limit the use of advertising and promotion of unhealthy food in public places.  This includes, but is not limited to, train and bus stations/bus stops/on buses and at sporting and other events.
  • Regulate price promotion and discounting practices that lead to higher consumption of unhealthy foods, and encourage the food industry to apply these approaches, to incentivise healthier food purchasing in Wales.
  • Consult on mandating calorie labelling for food purchased and eaten outside of the home, which will help to inform consumer choice and may encourage reformulation.
  • Consider further opportunities to improve consumer information on labelling which may arise following European Exit, including on front of pack nutrition labelling, and encourage Welsh producers to provide the most effective nutrition information on their products. They also wish to help stimulate an increase in healthier food establishments in Wales by offering cheaper business rates.
  • Support Welsh Business to reformulate and to develop healthier food choices by providing increased help through Food Innovation Centres. If necessary, including the use of further taxation powers in Wales, if the scale and pace of change by industry is not sufficient.
  • Strengthen the healthy and Sustainable Pre-school scheme to support positive practices in settings through food, physical activity and play.
  • Support schools to create whole school healthy weight environments including the modelling and reinforcement of healthy weight behaviours.

High Fat, Salt and Sugar Products

January 14:  In Chapter Two of the Childhood Obesity Strategy, the Government committed to consulting on restrictions to price promotions and advertising of HFSS products. It has now published its consultation, which seeks to reduce overconsumption of HFSS products that contribute to children being overweight and obese. The deadline for submissions is the 6th April 2019.

The products in scope are those which are captured under PHE’s sugar reduction programme, the soft drinks industry levy (SDIL) and PHE’s calorie reduction programme.

These products include sugar sweetened soft drinks, breakfast cereals, yoghurts, biscuits, cakes, confectionery, morning goods, puddings, ice cream, sweet spreads, fruit-based drinks, milk based drinks with added sugar, ready meals, pizzas, meat products, savoury snack products, sauces and dressings, prepared sandwiches and composite salads.

The consultation seeks views on:

  • restricting volume-based price promotions of HFSS food and drink that encourage people to buy more than they need, for example, ‘buy one, get one free’ and free refills of sugary soft drinks
  • restricting the placement of HFSS food and drink at main selling locations in stores, such as checkouts, aisle ends and store entrances
  • which businesses, products and types of promotions should be included in the restrictions
  • definitions for HFSS products, price promotions and locations in stores
  • how businesses can put this into practice and whether they will face any difficulties

They propose that the 2004/5 Nutrient profiling model (NPM) should be used to define HFSS food and drink although the NPM is currently in the process of being updated, which may have implications for the future.

In the proposals, the Government offers two routes for restricting promotions in terms of price. One option is for a total ban on volume based promotions. The second option asks for ideas for a compromise solution. One example option was to require retailers to ensure that at least 80% of their sales from volume based price promotions are on healthier products.

The Government is not currently looking to restrict reference pricing (which demonstrates good value by referring to another price) which is a positive development.

Government propose that the restrictions should apply to all retail businesses which sell any food and drink products, including their franchises and online outlets. This also includes retailers that do not primarily sell food and drink, such as clothes retailers and newsagents.

Salt Reduction

December 20: Public Health England has published a report detailing progress by the food industry towards meeting the salt reduction targets set in 2014 and to be achieved by December 2017. On own label and branded products, 52% of all the average salt reduction targets set were met by 2017. Retailers made more progress than manufacturers towards achieving average targets, meeting 73% of these compared with manufacturers meeting 37%.

All average targets were met for 9 product categories (breakfast cereals, fat spreads, baked beans, pizzas, cakes, pastries, fruit pies and other pastry- based desserts, pasta, quiche, processed potato products, stocks and gravies), and at least 75% of products in these categories had salt levels at or below maximum targets, with the exception of baked beans.
 
Meat products did not meet any average targets, and had 43% of products with salt levels above the maximum target.
 
For out of home sector salt targets, only maximum targets were set. In 5 out of 11 categories (breaded/battered chicken, pizza, children’s main meals, beef/chicken/roast main meals and sandwiches) at least 75% of products had salt levels below the maximum per serving target. Burgers in a bun and pasta meals had about half of products with salt levels above maximum targets (50% and 48% respectively).
 
Overall, 71% of products had salt levels at or below their maximum per serving target.
 
The data suggests that salt levels are generally higher in foods in the out of home sector compared with in-home.

Calorie Labelling

The Government has launched a consultation on mandating calorie labelling in the out-of-home sector. FWD will respond on behalf of members to the consultation document here.

Summary of proposals

  • The calorie labelling requirement will apply to any establishment, including vehicles and fixed or mobile stalls, in which food and drink is prepared and sold so that it is ready for consumption by the final consumer. This would include, for example, restaurants, take-away businesses (including those that operate online), fast food outlets, coffee shops, canteens, schools, hospitals and catering enterprises.
  • Calorie information is provided to consumers at the point of choice; that is, the place in an establishment where prices are displayed and customers make their meal choices.
  • Calorie labels display the number of calories in a portion of food, as well as this amount as a proportion of the recommended daily energy intake for an adult woman (2,000 kcal).
  • Calorie labelling is provided for all food and drink items that an establishment offers, including sides, toppings and drinks, seasonal dishes and ‘specials’, as well as self-service items such as buffets, salad bars, sauces and dressings.
  • Businesses are given 12 months to implement this requirement before legislation comes into force in Spring 2020, with the potential for longer implementation periods for some businesses, subject to consultation.
  • For each menu item offered, businesses will display the number of calories for what the business considers a standard portion as served by that business, and make it clear to customers what size a standard portion would be.
  • Where a business sells takeaway dishes through a third party business, such as an online takeaway platform, the responsibility for calculating the calorie content of the food or drink rests with the business making and selling it, and responsibility for displaying the calorie information at the point of choice rests with the business through which the consumer buys the food or drink.

Energy Drinks

August 30: The Government has announced a consultation on a ban on sales of energy drinks to children. FWD gave oral evidence to the Science and Health committee on this topic and have been at the forefront of this debate, and welcome the announcement for the clarity it provides to retailers.
 
Wholesalers of energy drinks are clear to their customers about the suitability of energy drinks and clearly label high caffeine soft drinks as not recommended for children.

Any coordinated voluntary action by the 70,000 retailers served by FWD members is extremely challenging as the majority are independent retailers. The announcement by the Government that energy drinks require an mandatory age restriction is welcome for the clarity it provides to those retailers.

More than half of wholesale customers operate under a symbol group brand. While these retailers operate under a fascia, they remain independent and it is up to each individual retailer to decide their store’s procedures. Wholesalers can encourage policies in-store but do not have any power to enforce them. Unlike franchises, symbol groups are usually only based on a wholesale purchase agreement rather than formally requiring stores to follow strict operating procedures.

Soft drinks levy

The Soft Drinks Industry Levy which require manufacturers and importers of soft drinks to pay a levy on high sugar products went live on April 6. The levy is made up of two rates: 18p per litre if the drink has 5g of sugar or more per 100ml and 24p per litre if the drink has 8g of sugar or more per 100ml.

Ahead of its introduction FWD has been working with Coca-Cola European Partners and the British Soft Drinks Association to highlight the potential fraud risks of the sugar tax, which includes a trade press campaign to highlight the issue to retailers and encouraging them to report any suspicious activity to HMRC.

What you can do: If you notice any drop off in sales of high sugar soft drink skus, or retailers say they’ve been offered these lines at very low prices, please let us know, or report it to the Customs Hotline