Speaking following the launch of the Department of Health’s Non Broadcast Media Advertising and Marketing of Food and Non Alcoholic Beverages, including Sponsorship and Retail Product Placement Voluntary Codes of Practice, Janis Morrissey, Health Promotion Manager of the Irish Heart Foundation said: “State-funded research estimates that 85,000 of today’s children on the island of Ireland will die prematurely due to overweight and obesity. The simple fact is that voluntary codes don’t work and the danger is that it is likely to do more harm than good by delaying real progress in limiting children’s exposure to junk food marketing.
“We’ve seen a number of failed attempts in the UK, culminating with the Responsibility Deal and the advertising industry’s digital code which has been ineffective in regulating online junk food marketing to children in Ireland. Companies that sign up to voluntary codes are not obliged to meet their commitments and experience shows that those which don’t want to modify their behaviour continue to act as irresponsibly as before.
“What we really need is uncompromising mandatory regulation with stiff financial penalties for those who break the rules. That’s the way we can start to change the future and meet our duty of care to those 85,000 children embarking on lives that will otherwise be dominated by chronic disease and premature death.
“We do not doubt the deep commitment in the Department of Health to genuine action to tackle our obesity crisis and we acknowledge that in recent times there has been important progress, most notably with the introduction in April of the sugar sweetened drinks tax.
“It’s long established that junk food marketing to children plays a causal role in childhood obesity; we know children are being bombarded with advertisements particularly on digital media; and research shows that children as young as eight are presenting with high blood pressure and young people are showing the early signs of heart disease once only seen in middle age due to growing waistlines.”
Media queries to Caroline Cullen, Communications Manager, Irish Heart Foundation.
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