Written answers

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Photo of Seán HaugheySeán Haughey (Dublin Bay North, Fianna Fail)
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161. To ask the Minister for Health the measures being taken to reduce childhood obesity; his views on proposals from an organisation (details supplied) to end the advertising and marketing of unhealthy food products to young persons by regulating online and social media marketing and extending the broadcast ban to 9 pm; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [60738/21]

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Sligo-Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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The Programme for Government “Our Shared Future” contains a commitment to “Work with key stakeholders to introduce a Public Health Obesity Act, including examining restrictions on promotion and advertising aimed at children”.

The policy instrument for obesity in Ireland is “A Healthy Weight for Ireland’, the Obesity Policy and Action Plan (OPAP), which was launched in September 2016 as part of the Healthy Ireland Framework. The OPAP covers a 10-year period up to 2025 and aims to reverse obesity trends, prevent health complications and reduce the overall burden for individuals, families, the health system, and the wider society and economy. Childhood obesity is a key priority under the Policy, as is reducing the inequalities seen in obesity rates.Actions taken under the OPAP to date with a particular reference to childhood obesity include the introduction of Nutrition Standards for Schools, the Healthy Eating Guidelines for 1 to 4 Year-Olds and Children's Food Pyramid, and the START communications campaign to combat childhood obesity.

The OPAP provides for a mid-term review to be carried out, which will lead to a refreshed and updated Plan with a revised set of actions for the remaining lifetime of the OPAP. This review provides the opportunity to consider developments and new evidence since the publication of the OPAP, and to assess which elements might best be further progressed by legislation or by other means.

The review will be informed by an evaluation of the OPAP which is being carried out by the Health Research Board Centre for Health and Diet Research, University College Cork. This process has included an assessment through an online survey by numerous experts and stakeholders, and the final report is expected to be received shortly. A strong evidence base will be required for any new legislative measures, and the review of the OPAP will build on the work already underway to identify gaps in the implementation of the Plan, including where actions need to be progressed, whether by legislative or other means, and where further research is required. This will input into what measures should be included in a Public Health Obesity Act, and stakeholder consultation will also be an important element of the considerations in relation to this.

In relation to the issues around advertising and marketing of unhealthy foods aimed at children, Ireland is currently co-leading a Work Package in this area under the EU Joint Action “Best ReMaP” (Best practices in Reformulation, Marketing and public Procurement). The title of the Work Package is “Best practices in reducing marketing of unhealthy food products to children and adolescents”. Work has been underway under this Joint Action since October 2020 and there are 17 Member States participating.

In relation to broadcasting, the rules around programming, advertising and sponsorship are contained in the Childrens’ Commercial Communications Code (CCCC). This is a statutory code with its basis in section 42 of the Broadcasting Act 2009. The current version of the CCCC has been in operation since 2013, and a review was carried out by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and published in 2020. The process for consultation in respect of a new version of the CCCC has not yet begun, but the Department of Health will certainly contribute to that process.


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