Parents bring concerns on junk food marketing to Minister

By June Shannon Policy News   |   20th May 2019

Concerned parents met with the Minister for Health Promotion last week to renew calls for a ban on junk food marketing to kids

The Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for Health Promotion, Minister Catherine Byrne TD, met with members of the Irish Heart Foundation’s Parents’ Jury last week to discuss ways to tackle junk food marketing to children and young people.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s Parents’ Jury comprises a group of concerned parents who are supporting the Irish Heart Foundation’s innovative ‘Stop Targeting Kids’ campaign. The campaign aims to enlist public support to force action restricting relentless junk food marketing directed at children.

The parents showed the Minister 100 examples of junk food marketing in breach of voluntary regulations that they have discovered since the launch of the Department’s voluntary code in 2018 to show that tougher regulation is needed.

They also reiterated the call for an outright ban on the advertising and promotion of unhealthy food and drinks to children, amid concerns about their role in Ireland’s childhood obesity crisis.

Junk food marketing plays a causative role in childhood obesity and the Irish Heart Foundation has long called for regulation of digital marketing particularly in the online and social media space, where children can be directly targeted by junk food brands.

The parents showed the Minister 100 examples of junk food marketing in breach of voluntary regulations

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According to the Irish Heart Foundation, every day food and drink companies bombard children and young people with clever and effective marketing messages designed to encourage them to eat more of their products that are high in fat, sugar and salt.

A poll carried out by IPSOS MRBI last year on behalf of the Irish Heart Foundation, showed that 71 per cent of people supported a blanket ban on the advertising of products such as sugary drinks, snack foods, chocolate bars and crisps to young children.

On 14 February 2018, Minister Byrne launched the ‘Non-Broadcast Media Advertising and Marketing of Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages, including Sponsorship and Retail Product Placement: Voluntary Codes of Practice.’ However, one year on it remains entirely unenforced.

A recent joint report from the World Obesity Federation and the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that compared to children with a healthy weight, those who were overweight, or obesity were more likely to experience negative consequences.

These included: poorer health in childhood, including hypertension and metabolic disorder, lower self-esteem and poorer health in adulthood, including a higher risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease.

The World Obesity Federation has estimated that by 2025, 241,000 schoolchildren in Ireland will be overweight or obese.

"We would like to encourage more parents to support the campaign by signing the petition and joining the Parents' Jury,”

Helena O Donnell, Project Manager, Stop Targeting Kids Campaign, Irish Heart Foundation

Commenting Helena O Donnell, Project Manager of the Stop Targeting Kids Campaign with the Irish Heart Foundation said, “we know childhood obesity is a problem and evidence has shown that junk food marketing influences young people. So, we are calling for regulation and penalties on junk food brands who continue to market to or influence young people.”

“We were delighted to have the chance to empower parents and to meet the Minister for Health Promotion. This is a step forward for the campaign and we would like to encourage more parents to support the campaign by signing the petition and joining the Parents’ Jury.”

The Irish Heart Foundation’s Parents’ Jury aims to help mobilise parents’ voices to be heard as part of the Stop Targeting Kids Campaign, initially speaking out on the nature of junk food marketing to children, with further opportunities to support Irish Heart Foundation’s work tackling childhood obesity.

You can support the campaign or join our parents’ jury here.

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

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