THE Welsh Government's crackdown on promotional offers for foods high in sugar, fat and salt will make healthier foods more affordable, according to a deputy minister.

Lynne Neagle, who is also the Senedd member for Torfaen, said restricting special offers on unhealthy foods would also tackle the "major public health issue" of rates of obesity and diabetes.

The debate has centred around so-called "meal deals" - promotions offered in many supermarkets which typically include a sandwich, a snack and a drink. Customers can choose from a wide range of options, including healthier selections such as water and fruit, to those deemed unhealthier, such as chocolate and fizzy drinks.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales on Tuesday morning, Ms Neagle, the deputy minister for mental health and wellbeing, said the Welsh Government was "not banning meal deals".

"What we want to do is make it easier for people to buy healthy, affordable meal deals," she added.

The government's plan is a response to high levels of obesity in Wales.

Ms Neagle said "62 per cent of adults in Wales are overweight or obese [and] between a quarter and a third of children are obese or overweight by the time they reach the age of five".

South Wales Argus: Lynne Neagle, MS for Torfaen and Welsh Government deputy minister for mental health and wellbeing.Lynne Neagle, MS for Torfaen and Welsh Government deputy minister for mental health and wellbeing. (Image: Welsh Government)

"That is a major public health issue," she added. "We’re seeing huge rates of type-2 diabetes, which in turn is having a massive impact on our NHS.

"And we recognise that this isn’t just about what people go and buy in the shops, it’s about the fact that we are surrounded by a food environment that is incentivising the purchase of unhealthy foods."

The Welsh Government had "modelled two million meal deals", Ms Neagle reported, finding that "on average there are 700 calories higher than somebody needs at lunchtime".

"In many cases they can be as high as nearly 1,400 calories just for lunch," she added.

South Wales Argus: General view of supermarket shelves.General view of supermarket shelves. (Image: Welsh Government handout)

Ms Neagle admitted there was "no one silver bullet to tackle obesity" and pledged the Welsh Government would use a "wide-ranging, multi-component plan" to improve public health.

"Our package is a wider range of measures which is designed to make the healthy choice the easy choice in Wales; to make those healthy foods more affordable when we know that at the moment we are incentivised to buy the really unhealthy, ultra-processed foods," she said.

"We know that people are eating too much unhealthy food which is bought on impulse, and that these price promotions are driving that behaviour," Ms Neagle added. "This isn’t about taking away choice.

"People will still be able to buy all the things they’ve been able to buy before. This is about shifting the emphasis of those price promotions towards healthier options for people."

The plan has its critics, however. UK Government minister David Davies, the Monmouth MP, said it was "both fundamentally wrong for Labour to restrict access to affordable food during cost-of-living pressures and for them to decide what they deem to be acceptable food that we can enjoy".

He added: "Greater action is needed to tackle obesity, but the way to do that is to educate and advise on healthy eating, not imposing harsh rules that will hit society."