I have called for greater restrictions on junk-food promotions

The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly’s report of childhood obesity was revealed a number of interesting findings. Two of the findings in particular jumped out to me, the first was that food promotions play a huge role influencing purchasing decisions and consequently consumption.

In Britain, 40% of the food in shopping baskets is bought on promotion. Although the study did not cover the role that food promotions play in Irish shopping habits, it’s fair to say our consumer habits are generally very similar to our British Counterparts.

The second concerned the need for local-level interventions to prevent the location of fast food outlets near schools.

These outlets often form clusters or ‘doughnuts’ near or around schools. I have previously been very vocal about the need to implement ‘no fry zones’ around schools.

The study revealed that when the London Borough of Lambeth had included restrictions on new takeaways in its local plans, businesses rushed to open before the rules came into force, as they would only apply to new businesses.

“This illustrates just one example of the difficulties faced by local authorities in creating effective regulations.

As such I fully agree with the Committee’s recommendations that local authorities require more power to tackle issues relating to businesses which sell unhealthy foods, possibly reinforced by national guidelines on the location of fast food outlets.

Among OECD countries, Ireland has the 12th worst figures for childhood obesity, in fact, as the Committee found, it is becoming normalised in both the UK and Ireland.

As such, I believe restrictions on the promotion of junk food in retail outlets and the provision of increased powers to local authorities to tackle this issue are needed as matter of priority.


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