News & Updates

FSS Board to discuss a package of measures to address Scotland’s poor diet

Food Standards Scotland (FSS)’s Board will today (20 January) consider a raft of proposals, including reductions in the promotion, advertising and portion size of certain foods and drinks and consideration of the use of taxation and regulation  to improve the Scottish diet.

Geoff Ogle, Chief Executive of FSS, said: “Since Food Standards Scotland was established just short of 10 months ago, we have been evaluating and considering a wide range of measures to help improve the Scottish diet. We’re now in a position to take our recommendations to our Board for them to decide what should be taken forward and recommended to Scottish Government Ministers.
“We’re very aware there is no single silver bullet solution to reducing our obesity and overweight problem, and indeed these problems are not solely diet-related, as exercise and being more active plays a vital role too. But we do believe that the measures we are proposing are vital pieces of the jigsaw. We’ve been missing the Scottish Dietary Goals for the last 15 years, despite all the good work that’s been done, so we believe that radical change is needed.

“We are also aware that accessibility and affordability remain significant barriers to people choosing a healthier diet in our society. Food Standards Scotland is committed to working with industry, central government and other bodies to address these barriers in addition to this package of measures. Fifteen years from now we need to be able to look back and be able to say this was the point where we started to turn round the current trend: a trend which could see Scotland with adult obesity levels at 40% by 2030 unfortunately, it’s that stark.”

In addition to the Board paper, FSS are today, in collaboration with Kantar Worldwide, publishing the FSS report: Monitoring foods and drinks purchased into home in Scotland, using retail data from Kantar World Panel, which confirms a lack of progress in Scotland. Despite reductions in the purchase of soft drinks containing sugar, down by 21% since 2010, total sugar purchasing has not changed. FSS figures show that over the period 2010-2015, total calories purchased have not reduced at a population level in Scotland.

The report also provides evidence on food and drink shopping trends in Scotland over the past five years which confirms the large quantities of discretionary foods such as sweets, chocolate, crisps, savoury snacks, biscuits, cakes, pastries and sugary drinks being consumed by consumers in Scotland.  The report quantifies the increase in purchase of these foods and drinks in the lead-up to Christmas, when on average, an additional 9000 calories is consumed by every adult in Scotland. Consumption of these extra calories could equate to a 1kg (2.2lbs) weight gain for every adult in Scotland with potential associated increased risk of diet-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

Geoff added: “The report we’re publishing today shows that in five years the best we can say we have done is stand still. Our conclusion is that, overall, the gains made in sugary drink reduction by the drinks industry have been negated through recycling of sugar into different products within the retail offering.” 


Notes to Editors

  • The trend which could see Scotland with adult obesity levels at 40% by 2030.
  • Ross Finnie, FSS Chair of the Board will be available for interview on Wednesday 20 January between 12.40-1.30 pm and from 3 pm onwards.
  • A further press release may be issued depending on the decision of the Board on 20 January 2016.
  • The proposed range of actions to improve dietary outcome in line with Scottish Dietary Goals can be found in Annex A attached.


The board is asked to agree: Section in paper

1 - General

a - To note that FSS officials will report back to the board on an appropriate implementation and governance framework for delivery of changes to improve the Scottish diet. 1.2


b - That FSS officials and Board members should engage with all political parties to help build consensus and support to address the current situation in Scotland.


2 – Price and Promotions a - That FSS should work with industry on meaningful alternatives to regulation for the promotion of discretionary foods and recommend this approach to Ministers. 7.1


b - To give industry 12 months to propose evidence based measures to re-balance promotions for implementation within a reasonable time frame.

  d - To recommend to SG Ministers that FSS commissions further work to explore how and where regulation might be most effective with regard to rebalancing promotions in favour of healthier food and drink. 7.1
3 – Portion size reductions a - That FSS should commission further work to explore the potential for regulation in relation to retail and out of home portion size. 7.2

b - That FSS should work with industry on serious alternatives to regulation.

4 – Advertising and Marketing a - To recommend to Scottish ministers that they continue to argue strongly to UK Government ministers for restrictions on children’s advertising and to include the introduction of advertising restrictions on non-broadcast media.  7.3
  b - Those FSS officials develop, support and explore mechanisms to recognise good business practices (particularly SMEs) in terms of marketing and provision of consumer information. 7.3
5 - Reformulation That the current voluntary approach to reformulation should continue but be revised to include more challenging time-bound targets 7.4

6 - Taxation

a - To recommend to SG Ministers that SG and FSS officials actively consider how a sugar tax may be introduced and at what rate. 7.5

b - To give industry a 12 month period to come up with an alternative acceptable solution to a sugar tax to reduce sugar purchase from current levels.

7 - Empowering consumers That FSS should commission research to identify the most effective means of influencing public opinion in favour of action on diet


8 - Public information campaigns That future communications and marketing activity should be targeted and use a segmented approach where that makes sense to do so, thus addressing the different needs of different groups 7.8
9 - Education on diabetes That FSS should work with key stakeholders to raise public awareness of the consequences of Type II diabetes 7.10
10 - Affordability and acceptability of a healthy diet That FSS work with partners to address the issues of affordability and acceptability of a healthy diet 7.11
11 – Provision of consistent dietary messaging  That FSS in collaboration with partners, develop dietary guidelines for Scotland. 7.13