What Is HFSS? And How Will New Government Legislation Affect You?



In the summer of 2020, after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted to the nation that the coronavirus hospitalised him because he was “too fat”, the government launched its strategy to tackle obesity. The aim is to empower both adults and children to lead healthier lives.

According to NHS data, around two-thirds (63%) of adults are above a healthy weight and of these, half are living with obesity. The data also shows that 1 in 3 children are leaving primary school already overweight or living with obesity. The strategy was launched by the Prime Minister not only because obesity is associated with reduced life expectancy and is a risk factor for a range of chronic diseases, but because there is now evidence that people who are overweight or living with obesity are at greater risk of being seriously ill and/or dying from COVID-19.

As part of their wider strategy, the government is introducing new legislation restricting advertising both online and on television of foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt - otherwise known as HFSS. Government data has found that 5 to 15 year-olds spend 20 minutes more online per day than in front of a TV set and evidence suggests that this shift is set to continue. 

As part of their research, the government found there were over 15 billion impressions of HFSS advertising on children in 2019. The new legislation aims to reduce this number and encourage both children and adults to make healthier choices. As part of the new restrictions, there will be a 9pm watershed for HFSS advertising on television in an attempt to reduce impressions on children, and there will be a total ban online.

What is HFSS?

HFSS refers to food and drink products that are high in (saturated) fat, salt or sugar according to the Department of Health’s Nutrient Profiling Model. Foods that score 4 or more, and drinks that score 1 or more, are classed as HFSS. Staples such as oil, butter and cheese are exempt.

What does HFSS legislation mean for brands?

According to digital advertising experts at IAB UK, “trade bodies across the ad industry have condemned the Government's proposed ad ban as ‘unwarranted’ and ‘draconian’”.  However, brands like Purely are rejoicing as our product is considerably healthier than traditional brands and our plantain chips officially do not count as HFSS. This means we can shout from the rooftops about our delicious plantain chips and it proves we are healthier than other leading brands.

What does HFSS legislation mean for you?

The legislation won’t be fully implemented until 2022, but you may start to notice a shift in advertising habits. You’ll start noticing adverts for healthier foods and drinks both online and on TV as well as the disappearance of ‘buy one get one free’ promotions in supermarkets for HFSS products. The legislation also means restaurants will no longer be able to offer free refills of sugary soft drinks. 

At Purely, we are incredibly proud of the product we are able to offer and the fact our plantain chips contain only 3 natural ingredients. As our product is not classed as HFSS, we can promote our product with a clear conscience, knowing it is not contributing to the nation’s obesity crisis and that we are providing people with the option to make healthier choices.