(Bloomberg) -- The UK, struggling to ease a growing cost-of-living crisis, said it’s delaying restrictions on so-called multibuy deals for unhealthy food that were aimed at tackling the country’s obesity problem.

Rules banning buy-one, get-one-free offers and similar promotions for foods and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar will be pushed back by a year, the government said Saturday in a statement. Restrictions on free refills for soft drinks will also be delayed, though new guidelines on the placement of junk food in shops will come into force as planned in October.

The government said the deferral would provide time to understand the consumer impact of the measures as inflation soars to a three-decade high. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised more help for struggling Britons, and in April he told his cabinet to find new ways to tackle the squeeze on living costs.

‘Real Food Poverty’

John Allan, chairman of Tesco Plc, the UK’s largest grocer, said earlier this week that the country is seeing “real food poverty for the first time in a generation.” Supermarkets have been raising prices even faster than the overall inflation rate, according to an analysis for Bloomberg.

Yet the UK is also struggling with a growing obesity problem, with the World Health Organization this month naming it as one of the world’s most overweight countries.  

The measures announced Saturday delay planned restrictions on advertising for foods high in salt, sugar and fat. The new rules, which will ban such ads online and before 9 p.m. on television, will now start in January 2024 -- a year later than initially scheduled. The long delay is to give the industry more time to prepare, the government said.

Supermarkets, facing pressure to tackle obesity, had already been scaling back volume discounts on unhealthy food.

“We welcome the UK government’s pragmatism during the cost-of-living crisis,” Kate Halliwell, chief scientific officer at the Food and Drink Federation, said in an emailed statement.

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