In the guide

This guidance is for England

The Food (Promotion and Placement) (England) Regulations 2021 are intended to help improve the health of the nation by placing restrictions on 'less healthy' foods, specifically those that are high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS). The Regulations also apply to drinks.

An HFSS food is one that is prepacked and is less healthy*. It is a food that scores four or more points in accordance with the Department of Health and Social Care's (DHSC) Nutrient Profiling Technical Guidance. A less healthy drink is one that scores one or more points in accordance with the DHSC Guidance.

[*'Less healthy' and 'HFSS' are interchangeable terms; 'less healthy' is the term used in the DHSC Guidance.]

It will not be obvious whether a prepacked food or drink falls under the restrictions of HFSS. It is possible to calculate the points score from the guidance, but this is complicated and onerous and it is suggested that retailers ask their suppliers to identify which food and drink products are classified as HFSS.

Businesses to which the rules apply

The rules apply to a business that has 50 or more employees and is not a care home, an educational establishment or a restaurant.

Regarding the number of employees, if you run a franchise operation you are treated as part of the franchisor's business and not as your own separate business. Therefore, if the franchisor's business as a whole has more than 50 employees the rules will apply to you.

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Specified foods

These are the food and drink categories that are subject to the Regulations.

Category 1. Prepared soft drinks containing added sugar ingredients (other than exempt soft drinks - for example, alcohol-substitute drinks, or soft drinks that are for medicinal or other specified purposes). Fruit juice, vegetable juice and milk are also exempt.

Category 2. Savoury snacks - for example:

  • crisps
  • pitta bread-based snacks
  • pretzels
  • poppadums
  • salted popcorn
  • prawn crackers
  • snacks made from potato or other vegetables, grains or pulses
  • extruded, sheeted or pelleted products

Raw, roasted, coated or flavoured nuts are exempt.

Category 3. Breakfast cereals, including granola, muesli, porridge oats and other oat-based cereals.

Category 4. Confectionery, such as chocolates and sweets.

Category 5. Ice cream, ice lollies, frozen yogurt, water ices and similar frozen products.

Category 6. Cakes and cupcakes.

Category 7. Sweet biscuits and bars that are based on nuts, seeds or cereal (singly or in any combination).

Category 8. Foods usually eaten in the morning, including croissants, pains au chocolate and similar pastries, crumpets, pancakes, buns, teacakes, scones, waffles, Danish pastries and fruit loaves.

Category 9. Desserts and puddings, including pies, tarts and flans, cheesecake, gateaux, dairy desserts, sponge puddings, rice pudding, crumble, fruit fillings, powdered desserts, custards, jellies and meringues.

Category 10. Sweetened yogurt and fromage frais, whether sweetened with sugar or other products.

Category 11. Pizza, except plain pizza bases.

Category 12. Potato-based products: roast potatoes, potato and sweet potato chips, fries and wedges, potato waffles, novelty potato shapes (such as smiley faces), hash browns, rostis, crispy potato slices, potato croquettes.

Category 13. Any of the following:

  • products that are sold as being ready to cook or re-heat without further preparation, and intended as a complete meal (ready meals)
  • products, other than products that contain pastry, in or with a sauce (but not a marinade, glaze, dressing, seasoning or similar accompaniment) that are marketed as ready for cooking or reheating without requiring further preparation, and intended to be consumed as the main element of a meal
  • breaded or battered vegetable, fish, shellfish, meat or poultry products, as well as vegetarian / vegan substitutes - for example, fish fingers, fish cakes, chicken nuggets and breaded meat substitute
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Restrictions

Placement of specified food in-store

A qualifying business (one that is not exempt) must not place specified food:

  • within 2 m of a checkout facility, unless the food is placed in (but not at the end of) an aisle
  • within 2 m of a designated queuing area. This means an area set aside and marked as a place for queuing customers
  • in a display at the end of an aisle where the end aisle is adjacent to a main customer route through the store
  • in a separate unit (for example, an island bin, side stack or clip strip) connected to, adjacent to or within 50 cm of such an aisle end
  • at any point within the prohibited distance* of the midpoint of any public entrance to the store's main shopping area

[*The 'prohibited distance' means the smaller of 15 m or HFSS 'prohibited distance' equation where a is the store's relevant floor area. 'Relevant floor area' means the internal floor area, particularly the parts used for displaying goods or serving customers; it does not include areas used for preparation for food for immediate consumption (such as a coffee room or canteen), a consultation room (for example, an opticians' service), or a concession operating its own payment facilities.]

The restrictions do not apply to stores:

  • with a relevant food area of less than 185.8 m2
  • that mainly or only sell food from a single category - for example, a cake shop selling products from category 8

Price promotion of specified food

From 1 October 2023, no business can offer a specified food for sale as part of a volume promotion (in-store or online) - for example:

  • 'three for the price of two'
  • 'three for £10'
  • 'buy six and save 25%'
  • 'buy one get one free'

This also applies to any promotion indicating that any part of an item is free, such as '50% extra free'. There is a transition period until October 2024 for such promotions that are printed on packaging, as long as that packaging is printed before October 2023.

This restriction does not apply to offers as part of a discounted multibuy such as a 'meal deal' or 'dine in for two'-type offers.

Price promotion of certain drinks

From 1 October 2023, no business can offer a free refill promotion (including free top ups) for a less healthy drink. This applies to a drink that is not prepacked and is less healthy (scores 1 point or more).

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Online sales

You cannot offer for sale an HFSS food or drink:

  • on a website's home page
  • while a consumer is searching or browsing products, apart from some specified drinks
  • with a 'pop up' or 'brand burst' on a page not intentionally opened by a consumer
  • on a 'favourite products' page, unless the consumer has previously purchased the product or intentionally identified it as a favourite; it must not be given greater prominence than any other products on a favourites page

This does not apply to offering HFSS food on a page intentionally opened by a consumer who is browsing generally for special offers.

This part of the Regulations does not apply to a business that only or mainly sells food from one of the categories above - for example, a specialist confectioners selling products from category 4.

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Further information

More detailed guidance on the Regulations can be found on the GOV.UK website.

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Trading standards

For more information on the work of trading standards services - and the possible consequences of not abiding by the law - please see 'Trading standards: powers, enforcement and penalties'.

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In this update

New guidance: October 2022

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Key legislation

Food (Promotion and Placement) (England) Regulations 2021

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab.

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Consumer enquiries from England, Scotland and Wales are handled by the Citizens Advice Consumer Service who can be contacted by telephone on 03454 04 05 06. Consumer enquiries in Northern Ireland are handled by ConsumerLine who can be contacted by telephone on 0300 1236262. Call charges may vary.

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