Weekly Poll – Junk Food Promotions
Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 16 August 2021, we asked a question about junk food promotions.
Question 1. Do you think a Bill to ban multi-buy offers on junk food will help tackle obesity in Scotland?
- YES – 36% (37 respondents)
- NO – 64% (65 respondents)
There was a mixed response from disabled people regarding the Food Promotions Bill, which had proposed to ban cut-price offers on high-sugar, high-fat food with little nutritional value. The Bill was put on hold in June 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst some respondents believed that the Bill could help to reduce obesity in Scotland, there was also recognition that there are a number of additional factors that must be taken into consideration. We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.
Progress the Bill
A number of campaign groups and charities, including Cancer Research UK, recently called for the Food Promotions Bill to be progressed as soon as possible to help tackle obesity in Scotland. Professor Linda Bauld, the charity’s cancer prevention expert commented on the need to introduce the Bill. “We know that supermarket cut-price and multi-buy offers are a big influence on what we buy, encouraging people to stock up on high calorie food with no nutritional value. It’s time for the Scottish Government to once again forge ahead with this legislation which would do a great deal to improve the nation’s health”. This is a viewpoint shared by a portion of respondents, who reflected on the impact the Bill could have for people in Scotland.
“I do think stopping adverts for junk food during children’s viewing time is important, as this can stop the children getting into the habit of eating the foods in the first place.”
“If junk food isn’t advertised nearly ever break, it must help. Stopping multi-buys would help too.”
“I eat a lot of vegetables, fruit and fish, that is my preferred choice, but the adverts offering two for one are very attractive to families. I believe the shops introducing these offers should be more responsible with their advertising.”
“The Bill would certainly help. Junk food should not be made more appealing through cost.”
Respondents reflected on the impact a ban on multi-buy offers will have on families, particularly for those on low incomes and living in poverty. Some people may rely on multi-buy offers when having to manage a very limited weekly budget. Junk food is also a convenient option that is quick and cheap to prepare. For people living in poverty, they may not have the time resource to prepare meals when working long hours and providing for their family.
“Being in a larger family, there are 6 of us, and on a budget makes promotions a life saver for us. We get to try foods we cannot normally afford.”
“Folk buy multi-buy offers to feed their families. They know fine well it is not a healthy choice, they are not stupid just poverty struck. With hunger and poor wages, they have to feed their families therefore multi-buys will suffice.”
“Multi-buy offers can be beneficial to people on low income if it is on a necessary purchase. People on low income only buy things that are necessary for their daily living.”
“Junk food is quick, when you’re living in poverty it is often also the case that you are time-poor as well – if you are working and travelling on public transport etc. you quickly run out of time to prepare good healthy food and junk food is all that is available to eat.”
“Due to the costs of healthier food for all but especially to people on benefits and low incomes, there has been an increase in the buying of ready meals or processed high fat and sugar items. This may in some cases be down to quickness but can also be because of cost and that these meals can be done very quickly in a microwave which saves electricity/gas costs of oven or hob cooking.”
“If it wasn’t for multi-buys a lot of families would starve. Most people keep items aside, they don’t eat what they buy at the same time.”
A number of respondents believed that healthy meals are often more expensive than food that is high in sugar and fat with little to no nutritional value. One respondent revealed that they may resort to using food banks if they are unable to access multi-buy offers.
“I cannot afford the cost of healthy foods, so I have to rely on cheap junk food. If cheap junk food becomes more expensive, I will have to rely on food banks, and they never supply fresh fruit or veg. My local food bank only supplies such items as sugary breakfast cereals, packets of crisps with high salt content, and tinned peaches in syrup. Only rich people will benefit from the proposed Food Promotions Bill, it will make things worse for poor people.”
“Banning multi-buy offers isn’t going to resolve obesity on its own – all you’re going to do is make poor people hungry as they won’t be able to afford alternatives. Making the healthy option the easy option does not make it the affordable option. Due to my disability, I cannot prepare cooked food on my own and can’t get any assistance to help me. This means that if I am to eat, I have to resort to junk food – I’d prefer healthier options but these are either not available or too expensive. Banning bulk buys is just going to mean I spend more on junk, it’s not going to reduce the amount I eat as the alternatives are not available.”
“It is very hard to get people to stop eating junk food, much of which is filling and relatively cheap compared to healthy eating options like many fruits and veg.”
Living Wage and Social Security
A number of solutions were suggested by respondents with regards to how obesity levels in Scotland can be addressed. A living wage can provide greater levels of disposable income. There were also calls for increased financial support for people receiving disability benefits and grants. A recent Disability Equality Scotland poll found that 92% (126 respondents) believed that the UK Government should retain the £20 Universal Credit uplift that was introduced at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I believe that a reasonable living wage will go much further in fighting obesity than taxing the very foodstuffs that those most at risk depend on. Often without such foodstuffs children will go hungry.”
“If the public at large want to buy it they will, but again it’s normally the poorest groups who take up these types of deals as they have very little to live on from the benefits they get. We’d all like to purchase better class foods but can’t be due to their expense on the limited budget we have.”
“If 2 for 1 or cut-price offers were banned this is not going to stop people from buying them if they want or need to because of personal circumstances, the main change will be to up the costs of people on low incomes or benefits and increase these people to make further decisions in regarding of heating/eating dilemma as well as other day-to-day bills.”
“Sadly, many people can only afford to live on special offers and junk food, perhaps if you campaigned for cheaper utilities and a decent state pension things would improve.”
“I suspect obesity is often caused by poverty. What I mean is since the UK Government reduced benefits again for many- in the form of Universal Credit. Too many choose between food for their children or paying bills.”
Respondents believed that healthier foods need to be more affordable and easily accessible. It was suggested that retailers should increase the number of multi-buys offers for foods that provide nutritional benefits.
“The Government needs to be promoting healthy, responsible, quality foods, ensuring such foods are readily available in shops and at responsible prices to encourage people to eat more healthily.”
“More fruit and veg on multi-buy offers would be great. I do find the cheaper food is unhealthier which can be a challenge when living on benefits with caring responsibilities.”
“Multi-buy offers should be removed from junk food and put onto healthy foods. Price capping should also be implemented on healthy foods.”
“A ban on cheap offers won’t help. It just makes things more expensive. Make healthy food options more affordable instead.”
“It would be better to make ‘healthy’ food cheaper and more available. Reducing the minimum order value for supermarket deliveries would help with getting fresh food for folk who can’t make it to shops.”
“In some parts of Scotland, I’ve been to, I’ve been really shocked at how difficult it is to buy locally grown organic fresh fruit and vegetables. So, I think that in tandem with this law, the Scottish Government should be supporting citizens and farmers to produce or sell affordable organic produce in every 20-minute neighbourhood, either on a ‘grow your own’ basis or farmed in a sustainable way.”
Respondents believed that education is a key element to ensuring that people of all ages are aware of the benefits of preparing meals that are healthy and nutritious. There were specific comments from respondents for ensuring that these key messages are promoted in schools, which will subsequently filter through to parents and guardians.
“We have a culture of carb and sugar addiction which needs radical education to fix. Making it more costly is saying punishment is better than incentive. Affordable healthy food would be better with classes to empower use. These could be offered online.”
“Rather than target foods, I think education from a young age in schools is key. People no longer know how to cook healthy meals and therefore go for easy to cook junk food. Bring back cookery classes in schools for children, accessible and affordable basic cookery skill classes for adults in the community.”
“Educating people on healthy food and its benefits in an interesting way would be of help too.”
“As well as banning multi-buy offers, education from an early age would help.”
“If people want to buy rubbish, nothing will stop them. It is more important to change the mindset to a healthier one.”
“We eat so much of the wrong stuff because we haven’t learned how to cook healthy foods. Cooking should be part of education from primary school.”
In addition to education of the importance of healthier food, a portion of respondents believed that there also needs to be meaningful investment in resources to encourage people to stay active.
“The ban on multi-buy offers of Junk food is a start however there needs to be more done to encourage people to exercise. There needs to be work done to encourage people to be shown how something like swimming can be very beneficial. Work is also required on the issue of diet overall for many people they don’t understand that you need to be eating a wide variety of foods including vegetables etc.”
“Yes, there is a need to make some changes in regards of living healthier, but this is not just down to the food that we all eat it can also be promoted by activities within our neighbourhoods. This again comes down to cost so perhaps the government should also be looking at the provision of various activities for all ages to be provided for free if possible.”
There was a mixed response from disabled people with regards to the proposed Bill to ban multi-buy offers to help tackle obesity levels in Scotland. Whilst a portion of respondents agreed that the Bill would make a difference, there was recognition that a number of other factors must be taken into consideration. Some disabled people reflected on their experiences of living in poverty, and how multi-buy offers, and promotions are useful when managing a limited budget. However, this also highlighted that there must be greater financial support in place to support people living in poverty. Respondents believed that healthier foods must also be more affordable and easily accessible. An education campaign highlighting the benefits of healthier foods and how to stay active was also identified as a means for helping to tackle obesity levels in Scotland.