Ireland should take a lettuce leaf out of Boris Johnson’s book when it comes to obesity, the Irish Heart Foundation urges.
he Government must emulate the British Prime Minister’s lead through tough new action to tackle obesity, the Eederation said. It saying was “more urgent than ever,” given evidence of increased risk to the overweight from Covid-19.
Measures to curb junk food marketing feature in the new UK strategy, including strict advertising restrictions on broadcast media and online, along with a ban on food promotions such as buy-one-get-one-free, had a crucial role to play in combating our obesity crisis.
The Government here should now look at going even further than Britain is now doing, said Chris Macey, Irish Heart Foundation head of advocacy.
Suggestion measures include the mandatory “reformulation” of unhealthy food and beverages, and an extension of the sugar sweetened drink tax to items such as confectionery, from sweets to biscuits and pastries.
“It’s clear that being overweight or obese puts people at greater risk of serious illness or death from Covid,” Mr Macey said.
“The more successful we are in limiting the impact of the virus the quicker we will be able to return to some sort of normality, so the case for decisive action on obesity has never been more compelling.”
The primary focus in Ireland has thus been on tackling childhood obesity – which the State’s own research estimates will result in the premature deaths of over 85,000 on the island of Ireland – but how adults needed the same attention, he said.
“It’s clear that a lot more should also been done to protect adults, six in ten of whom are overweight or obese.”
Mr Macey said reformulation and portion size control are among the measures that can have the biggest effect in reducing high levels of fat, sugar and salt in people’s diets.
British research has shown that the sugar sweetened drinks tax had resulted in a 22pc reduction in purchased sugar, suggesting that more such taxes could further drive change.
Programme for Government commitments on action in the area “should now be fast-tracked,” he said, especially such as plans to implement a Public Health Obesity Act.
It would provide for restrictions on promotion and advertising, the introduction of No Fry Zones and various initiatives promoting physical activity.
A variety of measures, taken together, “can help transform a toxic environment that is making sedentary lifestyles inevitable,” he said.
Polls carried out for the Irish Heart Foundation by Ipsos MRBI show three in four support for a ban on price promotions encouraging people to choose larger sizes or multiple amounts of unhealthy food and drinks.
A similar majority supports removing sweets and other unhealthy products from end of aisles and checkouts in supermarkets, while 71 per cent support a ban on the marketing and promotion of unhealthy food and drinks to under 18s.