Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe, has said the Department of Health’s new voluntary code for the marketing of junk food to young people is next to useless and doomed to failure.

Speaking after the launch of the code this week, the Sinn Féin TD called on the Government to get real with it comes to childhood obesity levels in Ireland and to instead introduce mandatory legislation.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“Irish children have an unhealthy relationship with sugar and junk food, with children from low income families more likely to be overweight or obese. Ireland is on its way to being Europe’s most obese nation by 2030 with currently one in four schoolchildren currently overweight or obese.

“A Government commissioned report suggests that 85,000 Irish children will die prematurely or suffer from long term illness due to obesity. Tackling this major health issue is currently costing us €1.3 billion and this could reach €5.4 billion by 2030.

“This is the huge challenge that is facing us a society and tinkering around the edges of this problem will not solve it or give any comfort to these children and their families.

“The Government have responded this week by introducing a voluntary code for advertisers, but this approach is next to useless and doomed to failure. We know that a voluntary code approach hasn’t worked in any other country, but the Government seem determined to ignore this reality. They are relying on the goodwill of the junk and sugary food advertisers to protect Irish children from these same foods. This naive approach evidently won’t work.

“A voluntary code will not deliver the change that is needed, but regulation and stiff penalties on harmful fat and sugar saturated foods and drinks can and do work. The Government and the Department of Health need to get real, introduce mandatory legislation, and begin a concerted fight back against obesity and junk foods.”