Junk food companies need to be ‘reined in’ by government because of the way they target young children with ads online, according to Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú.
The Louth TD raised the issue during the Order of Business in Leinster House last week, after a campaign to ban junk food ads online was launched by the Irish Heart Foundation.
The Sinn Féin deputy highlighted the ways the food companies are targeting kids.
He said: ‘Safefood research estimates one in 20 children on this island will die prematurely due to problems caused by being overweight.
‘The biggest junk food brands are designing online games for young children to promote their products.
‘Research in Britain shows children aged under 16 years there are exposed to 15.1 billion online junk ads per year.
‘Nearly three out of four people want a ban on the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.
‘When will the Government act and publish the public health obesity Bill promised in the programme for Government? We need an online ban on the marketing of unhealthy food, a 9 p.m. watershed and a ban on unhealthy food and drinks advertising on State-owned infrastructure and transport.
‘The Government needs to rein in the junk food brands’.
In response, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said: ‘I thank the Deputy. I agree with many of the sentiments he has put forward.
‘We are tackling it in various ways. One is a very significant increase in funding for Healthy Ireland to encourage healthy eating, healthy habits and supports for parents raising their children and forming good habits. T
‘he Deputy raises a programme for Government issue that is being looked at, and that we are exploring, about going further and bringing in curbs on some of the targeting of children for some of these foods, which are obviously very high in certain fats, salts and sugars, which we know are contributing to obesity in Ireland which we are tackling and are very open to doing more on it’.