A BAN on the sale of energy drinks to under 16s and clamping down on the availability of hot food takeaways near schools have been proposed as solutions to rising obesity in Wales.

But a deadline is approaching for members of the public to have their say on the plans that have been put forward by the Welsh Government as part of its Healthy Food Environment and Energy Drink consultations.

Deputy minister for mental health and wellbeing, Lynne Neagle, said: “The closing date for the consultations are fast approaching, and so I’d urge people to have their say and take part. 

“It only takes a couple of minutes to complete – but the benefits of introducing positive changes will be felt in Wales for generations to come. 

“This is about removing the barriers that prevent or put people off from making healthier food and drink choices. Often, foods that are sugary or high in fat or salt are more readily available and promoted – this has to change if we are to reduce obesity in our country. This is an open and frank conversation about how we can create a step change in our choices and behaviors.” 

Emily Brooks, from Crickhowell, is an ambassador for the Healthy Weight:Healthy Wales strategy, that aims to prevent and reduce obesity.

The 23-year-old said: “Young people like myself are disproportionately targeted by promotions and marketing for unhealthy food and drink, but because of or ages it’s easy to forget the damage we can do to ourselves by not having a balance with healthy lifestyles. The fact that some children are starting school already obese is so concerning.

“We need to do something about the fact that diets that are high in sugar, fat, and salt are negatively affecting how well some young people do in education and how it can negatively impact the mood of children in particular. We can’t afford to just do nothing and so we need as many people as possible to take part in these consultations to make sure we take the best steps forward.”

What would the changes mean?

While a ban on energy drinks would see them classed, and treated, as age restricted products such as alcoholic drinks and lottery tickets other changes could impact how restaurants operate and how councils grant planning permission.


The UK Government announced plans to ban sales of energy drinks to children in 2019 but has still not placed it into legislation.

Restrictions could be placed on the promotion of foods high in fat, sugar or salt, ending free refills on sugary drinks and expanding the publication of calories on menus, a move which was brought into force in England earlier this year. Some criticised the requirement saying it could make those with eating disorders uncomfortable.

The proposal to limit the availability of hot food takeaways near schools would rely on the planning system, so wouldn't impact on existing traders but only limit where new businesses could be established.

The government is asking whether the planning process for new hot food takeaways should take into account how close they are to schools and colleges, ensuring factors such as existing saturation of similar outlets in an area, local obesity rates and social demographics are considered.

The proposals could potentially prevent takeaways from opening in more deprived areas meaning residents could face travel and financial barriers should they wish to treat themselves to a hot food takeaway, or that their choices would be limited with competition on the high street stifled.

What is the obesity situation in Wales?

In Wales, approximately 1.6 million adults are overweight and 655,000 people are obese. In addition, more than one in four children in Wales are overweight or obese when they start primary school. It is estimated obesity costs the NHS £6.1 billion per year across the UK. 

The latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows people are consuming too much sugar, saturated fat and salt and too many calories, but not enough fibre, fruit and vegetables. The survey shows that young people aged between 11 -18 years consume up to three times the recommended maximum amount of sugar.

How to have your say

The consultation launched in June and closes on Thursday, September 1.

People can respond online, via the Welsh Government website, to the consultation on a 'Healthy Food Environment' by clicking here, and to the energy drinks consultation by clicking here.