TDs urged to ban junk food companies targeting kids

TDs asked to accept two amendments to the Data Protection Bill

15 May 2018

TDs have “one last opportunity” to outlaw the targeting of children by junk food marketers using data harvested by social media platforms, the Irish Heart Foundation has said.

The charity, which has highlighted how marketers have been using Cambridge Analytica-type microtargeting tactics to bombard children with junk food ads for years, called for cross-party support for two amendments to the Data Protection Bill which is commencing report stage in the Dail today (Tuesday, 15 May 2018). If accepted the amendments would make it unlawful to profile a child for marketing purposes.

“If the Bill passes the report stage without acceptance of these amendments, it will be a lost opportunity to protect children from exploitation, as well as protecting their health now and into the future,” said Irish Heart Foundation Policy Manager, Kathryn Reilly.

“Protecting children from online marketing in particular is crucial given the established link between junk food marketing to children and childhood obesity, which State-funded research estimates will result in the premature deaths of up to 85,000 of children on the island of Ireland.

"Protecting children from online marketing in particular is crucial given the established link between junk food marketing to children and childhood obesity"

Ms Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager , Irish Heart Foundation

“The Government and members of the Dáil have a unique opportunity to take further concrete actions to safeguard children by accepting this amendment. If we do not stop the profiling of children for marketing purposes, we are allowing the commercialisation of children. If accepted the amendments before the Dáil will outlaw this specific commercial practice.”

Ms Reilly said a partial ban on junk food advertising to children on broadcast media was introduced five years ago because the causal link to childhood obesity has been conclusively proved. But there is still no regulation of digital marketing that is more personalised, effective and therefore potentially more damaging.

“As a result, junk brands have achieved a wholly inappropriate proximity to children – pestering them relentlessly in school, at home, even in their bedrooms through their smart phones. It’s called the ‘brand in the hand’ and gives marketers constant access to children,” she stated.

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