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Regulation of junk food marketing is key to tackling obesity crisis – Denise Mitchell TD

15 November, 2018 - by Denise Mitchell TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs Denise Mitchell TD has called for stricter regulations when it comes to broadcast and non-traditional media in order to prevent children being targeted by junk food marketers.

Speaking following the publication of a ‘The Report on Tackling Childhood Obesity’ by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Mitchell said:

“Our Committee’s report sets out some very clear recommendations which will help to tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity in Ireland. One of the key recommendations relates to an overhaul of the current regulations around advertising and marketing of unhealthy foods on broadcast media.

“At the moment the regulations only apply to children’s programming, however they do not apply during ‘family film’ slots for example. In my view this is a blatant example of advertisers targeting children and unfortunately the current regulations are far too flimsy to deal with the issue.

 “The use of social media to advertise unhealthy products to kids is another area dealt with in the report. We need to see robust efforts made to curb this pervasive practice which sees children bombarded with ads for junk food while using social media or playing mobile-games.

“The creation of an independent monitoring body to ensure that advertisers and broadcasters are complying with the Non-Broadcast Media Advertising and Marketing of Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages Code of Practice must also be a priority.

"As it stands this is a voluntary code of practice and in my opinion the absence of any mandatory elements means that the Code of Practice will have little to no impact on children’s exposure to junk food advertising.”

Deputy Mitchell also said extra powers are needed by local authorities when it comes to fast-food outlets near schools:

“There is a serious problem when it comes to fast-food outlets opening up very close to schools. We first of all need a clear definition of what constitutes a ‘fast-food outlet’ and from that we need to see enhanced powers to local councils when it comes to controlling the location and number of these fast food outlets in the vicinity of schools.”

Deputy Mitchell added:

“One of my amendments to the report, which I am happy to say was accepted, is that the Government also needs to provide necessary funding in order to better identify obesity hotspots.

"I also called for an audit of the number of schools with vending machines on their campuses in order to assess the income levels provided from these machines and to determine other ways in which schools can develop alternative sources of income that do not involve the pushing of junk food to students.

“This Report is very clear: we need to ensure we clamp-down on the exposure of children to junk food marketing.”

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