Junk Food Marketing Impacting Kids’ Food Choices

By June Shannon Policy News   |   17th Nov 2022

Online channels with ‘saturation levels’ of junk food marketing are the biggest influencers of Irish teenagers’ food choices.

More than half or 57 per cent of teens say that online media is the most influential factor dictating their food preferences a new study has shown.

The Empathy research study carried out on behalf of the Irish Heart Foundation also found that more than a third or 35 per cent of teens claim they consume junk food after seeing ads for unhealthy foods.

The research is being released as part of a new hard-hitting campaign ‘Stop Targeting Kids’ being launched today (Thursday 17th of November 2022) by the Irish Heart Foundation to confront the deluge of junk food advertising.

“Children are being bombarded with junk food marketing and this research shows it is strongly impacting their food choices,” said Chris Macey, the Irish Heart Foundation’s Director of Advocacy.

“It is now at saturation level, particularly through online marketing behind parents’ backs that is manipulating children’s food choices and thereby fuelling an obesity crisis that is threatening children’s health.

“Meanwhile, the Government stands by and allows voluntary regulation of online marketing.”

" Children are being bombarded with junk food marketing and this research shows it is strongly impacting their food choices,"

Mr Chris Macey, Director of Advocacy , The Irish Heart Foundation

Launching its ‘Stop Targeting Kids’ campaign and video the Irish Heart Foundation said it wants a blanket ban on junk food marketing online, an extension of the broadcast watershed from 6pm to 9pm and a ban junk food advertising on State-owned transport and buildings. It is also demanding the Government fulfils its 2020 commitment to introduce a Public Health (Obesity) Act.

The study of 500 parents and 500 teenagers shows social media (64%) is where most teens are exposed to high fat, sugar and salt foods, particularly on TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram – platforms teens access, on average, 38 times daily.

Separate UK research has shown that under-16s are exposed to 15.1 billion junk food ads every year online, Australian studies have revealed that junk food brands are targeting children with three ads every 10 minutes online and in Canada, young people are exposed to more than 100 ads a week. The Irish Heart Foundation believes a similar trend exists in Ireland.

“ One in 20 of this generation’s children will die prematurely due to overweight and obesity ,"

Mr Chris Macey, Director of Advocacy , The Irish Heart Foundation

“One in 20 of this generation’s children will die prematurely due to overweight and obesity. We are seeing cases of children as young as six presenting to doctors with high blood pressure,” said Mr Macey.

“If the Government does not act now, future generations will suffer and children will continue to die prematurely.

“In the midst of this crisis, the State continues to earn revenue from the promotion of junk foods on public transport, therefore profiting from the damage being done to children’s health.”

Mr Macey said it would have been “impossible” to reduce Ireland’s teen smoking rate from 41 to 12 per cent  if tobacco advertising had continued.

The data also shows that Irish teenagers appear to know the risks of consuming unhealthy foods they see online, with over a third (35%) very worried and 32 per cent saying they would support a junk food advertising ban to under-18s.

Meanwhile, 45 per cent of parents are “very worried” about their child’s consumption of junk food and a half (49%) say it is becoming more difficult to get their teen to eat healthily.

Mr Macey asked the public to support the Irish Heart Foundation’s campaign and sign an online petition calling for the introduction of the Public Health (Obesity) Act.

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child health childhood obesity junk food junk food marketing online marketing stop targeting kids

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