Reduce the Weight of Junk Food Advertising on our Children

Published date: 
13 Mar 2009

Friday 13 March:


The Consumers’ Association of Ireland (CAI) and the Children’s Rights Alliance (Alliance) have today joined forces, on World Consumer Rights Day (Sunday 15 March), to call for a ban on junk food advertising before the 9pm watershed, in a bid to slash the levels of child obesity in Ireland.  In a joint letter to Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan TD, both organisations have called for the swift enactment and subsequent implementation of the 2008 Broadcasting Bill, which includes provisions to restrict the advertising of foods and beverages to children that are considered to be unhealthy and contain excessive levels of fat, trans-fatty acids, salts and sugars.  

This is part of the global campaign, ‘Junk Food Generation’, co-ordinated by Consumers International.  Unhealthy diets are a major cause of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, which are on the rise particularly in low and middle-income countries.  These preventable diseases come at a massive cost to human life and cripple the health service.  About 22 million children around the world, under the age of five, are already overweight or obese.  In 2005, it was estimated that 327,000 children on the island of Ireland were overweight or obese and that this figure would increase by almost 11,000 per annum.  As it is widely held that the media is one of the most important vehicles for influencing consumers in relation to food selection and health behaviours, the CAI and the Alliance believe one of the key solutions to this problem is to restrict the advertising of unhealthy foods in Ireland.  

Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive of the Alliance, says: “It is vital that Minister Ryan and the Government remain committed to the Broadcasting Bill in order to protect children from inappropriate advertising and marketing.  Putting the health of children ahead of commercial interests and the food and advertising industries is the only way forward, if we are to reverse the increasing levels of child obesity.  Consultation with children’s organisations and consumer organisations is crucial in this regard.  Voluntary codes do not work and we call for a ban on the advertising of junk food before the 9pm watershed, as part of a wider strategy to tackle the growing levels of childhood obesity in Ireland.  This ban would be a first step towards a total ban on the advertising of junk food to children.  Let’s reduce the weight of junk food advertising on children and the pressure on our health services.  Stop the waste now.”  

Dermott Jewell, Chief Executive of the CAI, says:  “This is the day upon which we highlight and celebrate the 8 basic rights to which all consumers are entitled. Key amongst these is the Right to Safety and the Right to Choose. It needs to be understood by all that, by allowing unhealthy food to be marketed, those basic rights and entitlements are being abused.
More importantly though, the Consumers’ Association of Ireland (CAI) stresses that, by allowing unhealthy food to be regularly marketed to our children, this presents a direct threat to their well-being and instils in them seriously misguided and poor choice criteria that is potentially damaging to their future health and that of their children.
We must change the attitude to and ‘support’ of junk food production and sales. To do so we need to wake up to the reality of the abuse of our rights, the insult to our intelligence and the damage being done to ourselves and our children. Today is a good day to wake up and to open your eyes!”

Carys Thomas, Communications Director
Children’s Rights Alliance
Tel: (01) 662 9400 / 0877702845; Fax: (01) 662 9355

Dermott Jewell, Chief Executive
Consumers' Association of Ireland
Tel: (01) - 497 8600; Fax: 01 - 497 8601

Notes to Editor:

  • A study by the Southern Health Board in 2004 (page 75, Taskforce on Obesity) found that 75% of parents of 7-8 year olds considered that food advertising promoted unhealthy foods and 50% of parents felt that their children pressurised them to buy certain foods or drinks as a direct result of advertising.
  • In 2003, it was estimated that €132m was spent on advertising food and beverages in Ireland.  
  • Junk Food Generation:
Children's Rights Alliance