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Extend TV ban on advertising junk food and drinks to 9pm to curb childhood obesity – Burke

5th January 2024 - Colm Burke TD

A ban on the advertising of junk food and drinks on television should be extended past the current 6pm watershed to 9pm in an effort to curb childhood obesity, according to Fine Gael TD Colm Burke.

Deputy Burke said regulations that further restrict the advertising of High Fat, Salt and Sugar (HFSS) products both on TV and online must be examined by the new media regulator, Coimisiún na Meán, in order to limit the exposure of harmful and unhealthy content to children.

Deputy Burke, Fine Gael’s Health spokesperson, said: “Overweight and obesity poses an increasing challenge in Ireland, with 60% of adults and over one in five children and young people living with overweight and obesity[1]. The condition is associated with multiple complications including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, several types of cancer and a poorer quality of life.

“The lifetime costs of childhood obesity, which includes direct health care and societal costs, is €4.6 billion in Ireland[2].

“In an ever-increasing digital world, children are being exposed to the marketing and promotion of junk food and beverages, which is fuelling a widescale crisis that is threatening their health and wellbeing and that of future generations.

“Current rules from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) restrict the broadcast of HFSS foods and drinks on children’s programmes before 6pm. The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) also introduced in 2021 rules to their code that restrict marketing communications for HFSS foods if more than 50% of the target audience is under 15.

“However, some stakeholders claim the existing regulations fall short the from pervasive and sophisticated marketing methods employed by some food companies in targeting children with junk food and beverage products.

“They state children are still being exposed to junk food ads during prime-time shows and past the 6pm watershed when they are likely to watch TV with their families.

“The Irish Heart Foundation cited research showing young children in Ireland are still likely to see over 1,000 unhealthy food ads on television a year under current regulations (Tatlow-Golden et al.,2016), and older children who watch more TV later in the day probably view substantially more[3].

“Coimisiún na Meán, the new media regulator, is now responsible for regulating broadcasters and online media and takes on the work previously done by the BAI.

“The establishment of Coimisiún na Meán under the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2023 provides for the creation of rules which may prohibit or restrict… the inclusion in programmes of commercial communications relating to foods or beverages considered by the Commission to be the subject of public concern in respect of the general public health interests of children… those foods or beverages which contain fat, trans-fatty acids, salts or sugars.

Deputy Burke said, “I have been informed that the Department of Health is currently engaging with the Commission on this issue. I believe the Commission should therefore consider extending the broadcast ban to 9pm and also examine the digital media tactics employed by companies targeting children with their advertising through various social media channels[4].

“The views of parents and advocacy groups should also be listened to when it comes to protecting the health and wellbeing of children,” Deputy Burke concluded.






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