Irish Heart Foundation‘85,000 of today’s children will die prematurely on the island of Ireland due to overweight and obesity.’

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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“Foods that are high in fat, salt or sugar shouldn’t be advertised on building banners, shouldn’t sponsor sports events for children and shouldn’t be promoted on social media to anyone under 15.”

Just three of the recommended guidelines in a new Government-led voluntary code of practice for the advertising of food and non-alcoholic drinks, especially advertising aimed at children. The code was launched this morning at the Department of Health by the Minister of State, Catherine Byrne. Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy at the Irish Heart Foundation was one of those present at the launch. He joined Sean on Today with Sean O’Rourke to give him his take on the effectiveness of the new guidelines.

Chris painted a bleak picture of the status quo for Sean.

“It’s less than 3 months since government-funded research estimated that 85,000 of today’s children will die prematurely on the island of Ireland due to overweight and obesity. In the Heart Foundation, we’re already seeing the first evidence that something actually catastrophic is happening. Children as young as 8 with high blood pressure and young people showing the first signs of heart disease that used only be seen in middle age.”

While he feels change is crucial, Chris doesn’t believe an opt-in code is the solution.

“We have a choice here. Either to change that future or abandon these children. And unfortunately, a voluntary code isn’t going to do that.

He cited the upcoming “Sugar Tax” as a positive step in the right direction, deeming today’s voluntary code “weak” and “a step backwards”, especially given his view that junk food advertising is a “big-ticket driver” of obesity.

If it is such a step backwards, Sean asked, would we have been better off without this new code?

“We need a mandatory code where industry is forced to act because, you know, as far as we’re concerned, this is more likely to do harm than good by delaying real progress…Voluntary codes don’t work. It’s been demonstrated time and time again.

Listen back to the whole discussion on Food Advertising on Today with Sean O’Rourke here.

© The Listener 2018

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