A statement from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the planned bar on multi-buy promotions on foods and drinks high in fat, salt, or sugar (HFSS) is being put back a year to October 2023.
A ban on TV adverts for HFSS products before a 9pm watershed and on paid-for adverts online is also being delayed by 12 months and will now come into effect in January 2024.
Officials said the deferral of the buy-one-get-one-free (Bogof) ban was to give ministers a chance to assess the impact on household finances amid intense concern over the cost-of-living squeeze.
However, health campaigners reacted with dismay to the news, accusing Boris Johnson of “playing politics” with children’s health.
Public Health Minister Maggie Throup insisted that they remained determined to tackle the issue of childhood obesity.
“We’re committed to doing everything we can to help people live healthier lives,” she said.
“Pausing restrictions on deals like buy one get one free will allow us to understand its impact on consumers in light of an unprecedented global economic situation.”
However Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar and Action on Salt, said the delays completely contradicted the Government’s “levelling up” agenda.
“Boris Johnson could have left a legacy of being the first Prime Minister to address obesity in a meaningful way, particularly in restricting advertising and promotion of unhealthy food which were his flagship policies,” he said.
“Instead, he has given in to his own MPs, and an aggressive food industry, who, ironically, were starting to comply with these new policies.”
The DHSC said restrictions on the placement of less healthy products in stores and supermarkets will still come into force in October 2022 as planned.
Last month, laws on calorie labelling in large restaurants, cafes and takeaways were introduced.