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News / April 30, 2009

Dental Health Foundation calls for TV advertising ban

by Guy Hiscott

The Dental Health Foundation and the National Heart Alliance are calling for a ban on TV advertising of unhealthy foods to children.

Almost four in five Irish parents would agree to a ban of unhealthy food advertising up to the watershed of 9pm, according to a new survey commissioned by the National Heart Alliance.

The National Heart Alliance welcomed Minister for Communications, Eamon Ryan’s recent indication to bring in legislation to protect children from the marketing of unhealthy foods under the new powers of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. The Alliance stressed the need to ensure that children who watch programmes outside of children’s viewing are also protected. The advocacy group urged the Minister to take on board both the concerns of Irish parents and strong scientific evidence that links commercial promotion of foods and beverages to poor diets in children.

To highlight this important public health issue, the National Heart Alliance, supported by a number of organisations, including the Dental Health Foundation, is launching the Children’s Food Campaign. The aim is to keep parents, policy makers and other stakeholders informed and to encourage ongoing debate on the issue through the website

The Dental Health Foundation has highlighted that there is a well-established common risk approach (Watt, 2005) that recognises that chronic non-communicable diseases such as obesity and oral ailments share a set of common risk factors and conditions. Diet is recognised as a risk factor not only for obesity but also for dental caries, which is, of course, important considering the poor nutritional value and high sugar content of particular foods being marketed to children.

The common risk approach further recognises the role of the environment as a ‘risk condition’, which relates closely to the aim of the Children’s Food Campaign to reduce the advertising that can be seen by children via a number of mediums.

One key recommendation of the Children’s Food Campaign is that the Children’s Advertising Code should restrict advertising on television of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods high in fat, sugar and salt, as defined by nutrient profiling, between the hours of 6m and 9pm.

In addition, it is hoped that government departments and agencies, plus the new Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, will monitor the nature and extent of food marketing to children, with particular reference to the emerging technologies of the internet and text messaging.

For further information on the Children’s Food Campaign, please visit the website