Posted: 14/06/2022

HFSS display laws are another “burden” for farm shops 

New laws limiting the way retailers can display “less healthy” products are causing a fresh challenge for independents during an increasingly difficult trading period. 

Farm shops warned that the Food (Promotion and Placement) (England) Regulations 2021 would add to their “burden” amid soaring bills and disrupted supply in the wake of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. 

The law, due to come into force on 1st October, places strict limits on where larger stores can place goods classed as being high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) – ruling out displays near tills, queues and entrances. 

The enforcement of a second part of the regulations, concerning restrictions on promotions of higher volume HFSS purchases (such as multi-buy deals), has recently been deferred by the Government for a further year until October 2023. 

The detail of exactly which retailers, products and promotions are affected is complex (see box) but many in the sector will need to address it. Farm shops are particularly in the spotlight as many meet the criteria of employing more than 50 people and having a retail area of more than 2,000sq ft. 

Farm Retail Association chairman Rupert Evans said his members “intrinsically promote heathy food” yet “find themselves caught up in the new legislation”. 

He added that communication of the regulations had been “poor” and voiced concern over the timing of implementation.  

“The horrific humanitarian crisis in Ukraine has knock-on effects to the global food chain, coupled with the lockdown in Shanghai,” said Evans. “This is another administrative burden that will have to be faced – and the timing is far from ideal.” 

Rob Copley, owner of Yorkshire-based shop, café and events venue Farmer Copleys, said the law could have major implications for the business. 

“We are still getting our heads around what it means,” he said. “We put in a 10m deli counter last year with an integrated ice cream counter that is within 2m of a till – I spent £125,000 putting it in and now we may have to move it to be within the law.” 

Copley compared the administrative task of understanding and complying with the unhealthy food rules with that related to Natasha’s Law, which came into effect last October requiring full ingredients lists on all food pre-packed directly for sale. 

While he understood the importance of that legislation – which was introduced after the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who suffered an allergic reaction to a sandwich – Copley said the HFSS changes “just seem a bit pointless”. 

“Is this the way to beat obesity, by moving things round in a shop?” he asked. “It won’t make any difference to how much we sell or buy of anything – it just gives us a headache.”  

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