Our report out today shows that setting standards on the provision and promotion of unhealthy food and drinks in hospitals in Scotland helped people choose the healthier option. The Healthcare Retail Standard means that 50% of all food and 70% of all drinks provided must meet certain nutritional criteria and that only the healthier food and drink can be promoted. We found that, after the Healthcare Retail Standard (HRS) was introduced, people bought more of the healthier products and fewer unhealthy products. Whilst retailers initially found it difficult to find suppliers with enough of the healthier products to sell, they were all able to comply with the Standard, and over time, suppliers started to provide a healthier product range. We also found that the Healthcare Retail Standard did not cause the cost of food or drink to increase.

Deborah Shipton, Public Health Intelligence Advisor at NHS Health Scotland, and author of the report, said: 

“More people in Scotland are overweight or obese than not, and people in our poorest communities are most affected. All of this has serious consequences for our health, the economy and society. To address it, we have to make the healthy choice, the easiest choice. This means taking action on the price, availability and marketing of high fat, sugar and salt food and drinks. The public support bold measures to do this, and this evaluation has shown that they can be successful. The HRS provided useful learning that could be used to bring in similar measures in other settings such as leisure centres, trains, train stations, workplaces and the high street.

“We hope that our report will help policy-makers working to affect change in the public’s health feel confident enough to take some of the bolder, societal level actions needed, safe in the knowledge that the majority of the public understand the need for and support them; and; that bold actions like the HRS are possible and effective.”

For information on the impact of food and diet on health and health inequalities, visit our web pages on Diet and Obesity.