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:

DRS in Scotland

December 11: The Scottish Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee has released its  report on the draft Deposit Return Scheme regulations.

Key points to note:

  • A minimum 20p deposit but there should be the option for the scheme administrator to set a variable rate
  • The Committee recommends that similar to retailers, the introduction of the Scheme should be cost neutral for wholesalers. The Committee asks the Scottish Government to provide assurance that this will be the case and provide clarification on how the additional costs to wholesalers will be treated.
  • The Committee also recommended that the single industry led Scheme Administrator should be set up with representatives from all parts of the supply chain including wholesalers.
  • The Committee can see merit in introducing a variable producer fee
  • Glass to be included
  • Deposit should not be subject to the application of VAT
  • Inclusion of online sales is critical
  • If industry wishes to see a UK wide Scheme in operation it could extend the Scottish Scheme to other parts of the UK or it could encourage the UK Government to bring forward proposals for a DRS
  • The Scottish Government to provide clarity on the impact of DRS on free movement of goods
  • The Scottish Government to confirm that containers in scope for DRS will be excluded from the Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) system from the outset of the Scheme
  • Preference is for the establishment of a single Scheme Administrator which represents all parts of the supply chain
  • Ensure that the enforcement framework is in place and robust at the time the Scheme comes into operation
  • Recognises the concerns in relation to the potential for fraud. The Committee asks the Scottish Government to provide an assessment of additional provisions or support that may be necessary both to prevent, and to detect, potential fraud

The Scottish Government will respond to the Committee’s report within two months. In the new year, a final version of the draft regulations will be laid in the Scottish Parliament for consideration. The Environment Committee then has a further 40 days (excluding recesses) to consider it again, and report on it.

Health Green Paper

July 26:  The Government has published a Green Paper outlining proposals for tackling the causes of preventable ill health in England, including banning the sale of energy drinks to children under 16.

The Government also committed to deliver a Childhood Obesity Trailblazer Programme in partnership with the Local Government Association and PHE, working with local authorities to tackle childhood obesity in Blackburn with Darwen, Birmingham, Bradford, Lewisham and Nottinghamshire.

Proposals including a commitment to introduce a 9pm watershed on TV advertising of HFSS products and on making calorie labeling mandatory in the out-of-home sector, such as restaurants, takeaways and cafes are not included which indicates these issues will be delayed or cancelled.  

The Government are now consulting on the proposals contained within the Green Paper, with a deadline of October 14.

 Energy drinks ban

The Government will legislate to end the sale of energy drinks to children under the age of 16. Full details will follow when the Government publishes its response to the consultation.

Childhood Obesity Strategy

As part of the Green Paper, the Government published the Chapter 3 of the Childhood Obesity Strategy. This sets out plans for: clear labelling, food reformulation improving the nutritional content of foods, and support for individuals to achieve and maintain a healthier weight. To achieve a reduction of the population’s salt intakes to 7g per day the Government will publish revised salt reduction targets in 2020 for industry to achieve by mid-2023 and will report on industry’s progress in 2024.

Sugar tax

There is no commitment to extending the sugar tax to sugary milk drinks; however “if the evidence shows that industry has not made enough progress on reducing sugar, we may extend the SDIL to sugary milk drinks.”

Labelling

The Government will consult by the end of 2019 on how they can build on the current front-of pack nutritional labelling scheme post-Brexit. The consultation will consider the evidence underpinning these many different forms of front-of-pack labelling.

Alcohol

The Government want to make alcohol-free and low-alcohol products more available with a significant increase in availability by 2025. In order to support further innovation in the sector and encourage people to move towards alcohol-free products, Government will review the evidence to consider increasing the alcohol-free descriptor threshold from 0.05% abv up to 0.5% abv.

Allergens

July 2: Defra has announced plans to introduce new legislation which will mandate full ingredients labelling for foods which are prepacked for direct sale. It is proposed that the new laws will come into force in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by summer 2021.

Under current Food Information Regulations, full ingredient labelling requirements currently apply only to pre-packaged food. For other foods, businesses are permitted to make allergen information available by any means, including orally. The new lawwill require full ingredient labelling to be provided on the packaging of all food pre-packed for direct sale, with the 14 specified food allergens presented in bold. This will apply to foods that have been packed on the same premises from which they are being sold, for example, a packaged salad or baguette made by staff, packaged in the kitchen and then placed on a shelf for customers to purchase. The legislation will not include foods packed at the consumer’s request, such as a made to order sandwich, or loose foods. Labels will not be required to include potential cross-contact.

The Government will introduce the legislation by the end of summer 2019 with an implementation period of two years before the new law comes into force in England and Northern Ireland by summer 2021. The Scottish Government aims to implement a law for Scotland by autumn 2021.

FWD does not support full allergen labelling, given the practical issues it would create for foodservice operators and wholesalers. We will be lobbying FSA and Defra for a mandatory requirement for suppliers to provide information to a centralised database to be introduced as part of the new legislation, to ensure caterers are able to access allergen into order to be able to comply with the new labelling requirement.

 

High Fat, Salt and Sugar

March 22: The Department of Health and Social Care  has launched a consultation on restricting promotions of products high in fat, sugar and salt by location and by price. The consultation proposes which products are in scope, along with the type of price promotions and store locations which would be restricted.

DHSC proposes restrictions should apply to all products which are classed as high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) under the current nutrient profile model AND are included in the PHE’s sugar and calorie reduction programmes. For soft drinks, it includes those which are in scope of the soft drinks industry levy.

DHSC are targeting what they refer to as ‘volume’ promotions of pre-packed products only.  This includes:

  • multibuy promotions of pre-packaged HFSS food and drink where the discount is obtained by purchasing more than one unit, such as in ‘buy one get one free’ and ‘3 for 2’ offers
  • ‘extra free’ promotions of pre-packaged HFSS food and drink.
  • free drink refills with the purchase of a meal in out of home settings.

They consider meal deals in any setting should be exempt. In addition, most promotions in the out of home sector are excluded including: ‘kids eat free’ or similar meal offers for children, free desserts/sides, or offers like ‘2 courses for £X’.

In-store locations include:

  • Checkout area: the till point or a self-checkout area and the surrounding floor space area, as well as the queueing areas leading to the till point or self-checkout.
  • End of aisle display: the point of purchase advertising of products placed at the ends of shelf rows in stores, or on separate units adjacent to the ends of shelf rows.
  • Store entrance display: the display of products on units/shelves placed at/in the vicinity of the store entrance(s), including in front of or surrounding the entrance(s).

These restrictions would apply to retail and out of home settings and to both pre-pack and non-pre-pack.

For both type and location, the consultation seeks views on whether the stated products should always be restricted or whether a proportion should still be allowed to promote to incentivise reformulation.

FWD is responding to the consultation.

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.

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