Code of practice on junk food marketing is worthless

Recent dubious marketing tactics by junk-food manufacturers included a competition to win your height in pizza to mark National Pizza Day.

Recent dubious marketing tactics by junk-food manufacturers included a competition to win your height in pizza to mark National Pizza Day.

 It’s hard right now to imagine future generations looking back on the State’s response to our childhood obesity crisis as anything less than a catastrophic dereliction of duty.

Recent State-funded research estimates that 85,000 of today’s children on the island of Ireland will die prematurely due to overweight and obesity – more than twice the entire Irish death toll in the first World War.

Yes, there has been significant progress, such as the impending introduction of sugar-sweetened drinks tax. But this is nowhere near enough to change the future and alter our current course towards perhaps the most fatal failure of political will, and of our children, in the history of the State.

This shouldn’t be taken as an attack on the Department of Health or the Health Service Executive, where those leading the fight against obesity care as passionately as anyone can about turning the tide. The deficiency of the policy response to date is largely down to a broader failure of government in areas including education, the environment, communications where responsibility for vital elements of health policy is devolved, along with other powerful areas of government where vested interests can find champions to protect them.

A cursory look at the latest litany of dubious marketing tactics includes competitions for children to get their faces on to packets of a well-known crisp brand

The Government’s latest initiative to tackle a big-ticket driver of obesity – a code of practice to restrict non-broadcast junk food marketing – smacks of a policy approach more acceptable outside than within the walls of the Department of Health. Because it’s a plan more likely to safeguard the multinational processed food industry from the requirements of public health than protecting the public’s health from the excesses of junk-food marketing.

Voluntary code

The problem is it’s a voluntary code. The department knows well these just don’t work, not least from its own regulatory impact analysis of the Alcohol Bill, a succession of failed UK codes and the current Irish advertising industry standards which have not diminished the relentless online targeting of children. A cursory look at the latest litany of dubious marketing tactics includes competitions for children to get their faces on to packets of a well-known crisp brand and another to win your height in pizza to mark National Pizza Day.

[“Source-irishtimes”]