Labour will not rule out banning ‘buy one get one free’ deals on junk food once the cost-of-living crisis eases, Wes Streeting has said.
The shadow health secretary said Labour would not immediately oppose Government plans to scrap the ban, but would oppose any attempt to abolish the tax on sugary drinks.
Mr Streeting told a fringe event at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool that he had “upset a lot of public health campaigners” by saying it would be “tin-eared” to ban junk food offers when family finances were being strained.
He said: “I’ve heard through my inbox and on the fringe the breaking hearts of the public health professionals who are saying, hang on a minute, look at the evidence, and I just want to really underline this point because it’s important.
“I haven’t said not ever, I’ve been really clear in saying not now.”
The Government had been due to ban multi-buy promotions for products high in fat, salt and sugar by the end of October, but has delayed implementing the ban until October 2023 due to the cost-of-living crisis.
Health campaigners fear that the delay, combined with a reported review of the Government’s anti-obesity strategy, could lead to the ban being scrapped altogether.
Liz Truss is also reported to be considering abolishing the sugar tax, which Mr Streeting described as a successful policy that had funded public health initiatives.
He said: “I’m baffled as to why, having spent 12 years trashing all of our achievements in government, the Conservatives have now started on their own.”
Mr Streeting added that the food and drink industry had a “window of opportunity” to persuade him that further regulation was not necessary.
He said: “If they want to persuade me that regulation isn’t the answer and we should work in partnership with the industry, show me the colour of your money and show me your ingredients and show me your responsible, ethical approach you’re going to take without the heavy hand of state regulation.
“I’m open to persuasion, but I may not hold my breath.”