Food marketing and digital targeting of children in Ireland
The widespread marketing of unhealthy foods (food and non-alcoholic drinks high in fat, sugar and salt) plays a causal role in unhealthy eating and obesity.
Ireland restricts broadcast advertising to under-18s, of food high in fat, sugar and salt, on TV up to 6pm, but has not yet tackled regulation of digital marketing. Children in Ireland are increasingly active on digital media, with most 9 to 16 year olds now going online via a smartphone.
Unhealthy food and drink digital marketing as harmful content
The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill 2020 presents an opportunity for unhealthy food and marketing to be recognised as harm to children and legislated against.
The Irish Heart Foundation advocates for the regulation of harmful content in protecting children’s health and protecting them from privacy risks, loss of reputation, commercial exploitation of personal data, profiling and cyber harassment.
Stop Targeting Kids Petition
In 2017 the Irish Heart Foundation launched a petition called Stop Targeting Kids to tackle junk food marketing to children.
In response to the overwhelming evidence the Department of Health introduced a policy in 2018 on junk food marketing that brands voluntarily follow – this voluntary code is essentially worthless with no monitoring body and no penalties.
Building the evidence base for action, the Irish Heart Foundation commissioned a study to look at relevant digital trends, marketing strategies and parents’ awareness and views. The report shows how children are being emotionally manipulated by companies selling high-fat and high-sugar foods, targeting children through Facebook and other mediums through the use of sports stars, celebrities and games.
Ban junk food marketing to children
Junk food companies target children relentlessly and bombard them with clever and effective marketing messages across many forms of media.
Marketing manipulates food choices by creating an advertised diet that is very different than the diet recommended to maintain good health. We need to show the government we have public support for our campaign for a ban on junk food marketing to children.