Pubs and restaurants could find themselves in a ‘ludicrous scenario’ if Government proposals to tackle at-till product restrictions are extended to the hospitality sector, UK Hospitality has warned.

The consultation, which closed on April 6 and forms part of the second chapter of the Government’s childhood obesity plan, sought views on measures to restrict the promotion of foods high in fat, salt and sugar.

UK hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls insisted that hospitality businesses should be exempt from “unnecessary and unintended restrictions” which could cause “utterly needless problems”.

Her comments were made as the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s submission called for unhealthy free desserts to be banned in restaurants.

Ice creams, cakes and other sweet treats should not be allowed as part of a fixed-price menu deal for children, senior doctors claimed.

“Our industry is, as ever, supportive of efforts to promote healthier lifestyles and a balanced diet,” said Nicholls. “We do not believe targeting a treat occasion such as dining out is the right approach – this is about balance and lifestyle, not the blunt instrument of a ban.

”The focus ought to be on education and industry partnership, not on ill-conceived legislation and further red tape. Hospitality businesses are already taking supportive and proactive steps on a voluntary basis, and continue to act to reduce obesity across the population and help reduce salt, fat and sugar levels.”

Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the IEA described the proposals as “pretty extreme and impractical”.

“This is all part of the ban on multibuys which is aimed primarily at these largely mythical BOGOF deals,” he told the MCA.

“Restaurants wouldn’t be able to sell a Big Mac meal but would have to sell each component individually because it would be considered a multi-buy discount…They’re [the measures] are primarily about confectionery at supermarket tills and in their [Government] drive to get that banned they could well end up with a more far reaching law than even they’ve envisaged.”

Nicholls reiterated that any measures intended to combat at-the-till product placement aimed at children should not be allowed to spill over to hospitality.

“If they are, we could be presented with a ludicrous scenario whereby pubs are unable to display crisps or peanuts at the bar because they are restricted by childhood obesity legislation.”

According to the Department of Health and Social care, almost one in four children in England are obese or overweight by the time they start primary school, a figure which rises to one in three by the time they leave primary school.

Obese children are more likely to become obese adults, and obesity in adulthood increases an individual’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease and a number of cancers.