Inaction on junk food marketing criticised

By June Shannon Obesity News   |   26th Feb 2019

In its 2019 Report Card the Children’s Rights Alliance also highlights food poverty as a driving force behind higher rates of obesity

The Children’s Rights Alliance has called for the establishment of the long-promised oversight group to monitor compliance with the Voluntary Codes of Practice to reduce children’s exposure to junk food marketing.

Published today (Tuesday 26 February 2019) the Alliance’s annual report card which evaluates the Government’s progress on actions for children on a range of important issues such as physical and mental health, homelessness and equality, called for the oversight body to be established “as a matter of priority.”

As highlighted previously by the Irish Heart Foundation, despite being in existence for more than 12 months, the ‘Non-Broadcast Media Advertising and Marketing of Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages, including Sponsorship and Retail Product Placement: Voluntary Codes of Practice, remain entirely unenforced.

Coupled with criticising the voluntary nature of the code, the 2019 Report Card also stated that the lack of the oversight body to monitor compliance and effectiveness of the codes, “means they may have little impact on tackling childhood obesity because they allow for self-regulation and may not sufficiently reduce the advertising of unhealthy foods nor reduce children’s exposure to this advertising.”

"The fact that children’s rights organisations are coming out to highlight the failures of the voluntary code...highlights that the Government need to take more substantive action to address junk food marketing to children,"

Ms Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager , The Irish Heart Foundations

The Children’s Rights Alliance report also highlighted that children who live in disadvantaged areas are at an increased risk of food poverty which over time can lead to childhood obesity and ill health.

According to the 2019 Report Card, “Food poverty is one of the driving forces behind higher rates of obesity and ill-health in disadvantaged communities. It is defined as the inability to have an adequate and nutritious diet due to issues of affordability and accessibility. In 2016, almost 10 per cent of the population experienced food poverty. Current rates of social welfare payments and earnings based on the minimum wage make it difficult to follow a healthy diet as nutrient dense foods such as lean meat, fruit and vegetables are more expensive than energy-dense, cheaper foods.”

As part of A Healthy Weight for Ireland– The National Obesity Policy and Action Plan, a commitment was made to conduct a needs assessment of vulnerable groups, including families, children, low-income groups and people living in deprived areas for resource allocation “for preventative and treatment services for children and adults in the first year of the policy,” however, to date this has not been carried out. Therefore, the Children’s Rights Alliance called for this needs assessment to be carried out in 2019 “as a matter of priority.”

Overall ‘Physical Health’ received a ‘B’ grade in Report Card 2019 an improvement on last year’s ‘C-’ grade.

The Irish Heart Foundation, which is a member of the Children’s Rights Alliance, welcomed the inclusion of reference to the inaction on the voluntary code in Report Card 2019 as an important point relating to children’s physical health.

Commenting Ms Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager with the Irish Heart Foundations said, “the fact that children’s rights organisations are coming out to highlight the failures of the voluntary code, which currently stands without a monitoring body one year on, highlights that the Government need to take more substantive action to address junk food marketing to children – namely the need for statutory regulation.”

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childhood obesity Childrens rights alliance junk food junk food marketing voluntary code

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