Majority favour banning celebrity endorsement of junk food

By June Shannon Obesity News   |   22nd Apr 2021

Ireland faces losing a generation of children to obesity-related disease.

Three out of four people in Ireland think celebrities should be banned from promoting unhealthy food and drinks, research has shown.

According to research carried out by Ipsos MRBI on behalf of the Irish Heart Foundation, more than three-quarters (76%) of adults in Ireland support a ban on celebrities promoting junk food, 76 per cent are in favour of prohibiting the sale of children’s toys with junk food or sweets, and 75 per cent would support an end to price promotions that encourage people to buy larger meals.

The Ipsos MRBI research also revealed that 85 per cent of adults in Ireland are in favour of banning junk food advertising in online games and apps played by children.

According to the Irish Heart Foundation, this research proves that the public overwhelmingly support a demand that the Government keeps a promise to introduce new laws protecting children from junk food marketing.

The charity said that children as young as eight are presenting with high blood pressure and young people are showing early signs of heart disease usually seen in middle-aged men.

It warned that unless “drastic action” was taken, 85,000 of this generation of children will die prematurely due to overweight and obesity; equivalent to the entire population of Co Laois.

Children as young as eight are presenting with high blood pressure

.

The poll results also illustrate overwhelming support for a number of the recommendations contained in the Irish Heart Foundation’s Childhood Obesity Manifesto.

Launched in November 2019, this manifesto seeks to introduce a number of government measures to reduce childhood obesity by 50 per cent by 2030. These include: making solving the childhood obesity a national priority across government departments, regulating junk food marketers’ access to young people, listening to young people who ask for clearer more honest food packaging, reducing the cost of healthier food options through subsidies, and investing in a built environment that helps young people become more active.

Helena O’Donnell, Childhood Obesity Campaign Manager with the Irish Heart Foundation said, “More children will go on to suffer heart disease and stroke in the future. Twenty per cent of children live with overweight or obesity and what we have noticed is that inequality remains quite strong, with rates in disadvantaged areas reaching one in four.  In 1975, childhood obesity affected just 1 per cent of children in Ireland, but by 2016, 30 per cent of girls and 31 per cent of boys were overweight, with 9 per cent of girls and 10 per cent of boys living with obesity.”

Rolling lockdowns implemented during the pandemic have also fuelled the crisis: separate ESRI research last month showed that children, especially girls, were eating more junk food during restrictions.

“ We want to empower parents to challenge the narrative that they are the ones at fault for childhood obesity,"

Susan Jane White, , The Irish Heart Foundation’s parents' campaigner group,

The Irish Heart Foundation said the Government now needed to wage war on unhealthy food marketing. A partial ban on broadcast advertising to children was introduced in 2013 however, the move sparked an explosion in unregulated digital marketing.

“Brands have now achieved an inappropriate proximity to children online, engaging relentlessly in school, at home and even in their bedrooms, mostly through their smartphones. We know junk food marketing is fuelling obesity, which is damaging children, and the State is failing to protect children’s health,” said Ms O’Donnell.

Cookbook author Susan Jane White, a founder of the Irish Heart Foundation’s parent campaigner group, described the State’s response to the concerns as “feeble” because it put its faith in preventing junk food marketing in a voluntary code.

“We want to empower parents to challenge the narrative that they are the ones at fault for childhood obesity and I encourage everyone to sign a petition to protect our children’s health,” she said. We are specifically calling for the Government to put mandatory restrictions and penalties on junk food companies who market to kids online and on broadcast media.”

The Irish Heart Foundation is asking the public to join the 7,500 people who have already backed the initiative by signing the online petition here

The Ipsos MRBI Omnipoll, comprised of telephone interviews amongst a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 15+,  which was carried out between the 16th – 31st of October 2018.

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childhood obesity childhood obesity manifesto junk food marketing Obesity overweight

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