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Monday 2 October 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Mark Stedman via
# Junk Food
Social media ads for pizza and donuts targeted as Irish Heart Foundation takes aim at 'junk food marketing'
Complaints made by the Irish Heart Foundation regarding numerous adverts have been published by the ASAI.

THE IRISH HEART Foundation (IHF) has hit out at social media advertisements foods like pizza and donuts, claiming the ads encourage unhealthy eating habits.

The campaign group registered a series of complaints against pizza delivery companies, donut manufacturers and other food brands as a way of highlighting the issue.

The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) upheld a complaint from the IHF regarding an advertisement on Apache Pizza’s social media.

Similar complaints about Offbeat Donuts were not upheld.

The ASAI upheld one complaint made about Apache Pizza.

The advert displayed a slice of pizza, which featured pepperoni, cheese and peppers with labels that read ‘meat’, ‘dairy’ and ‘veggies’, pointing to each corresponding topping. 

The caption read: “Don’t let anyone tell you pizza isn’t healthy. It has meat, dairy AND veggies … #Fitfam”

The IHF objected to the post on the grounds that they believed it was mocking the food pyramid taught to children by suggesting that pizza was healthy because it could contain dairy and vegetables.

The ASAI upheld this complaint, as “no evidence had been provided to substantiate the unqualified claim that the product was healthy per se”.

Apache Pizza withdrew the post from all platforms following receipt of the complaint. 

It said it had not been its intention to encourage poor nutritional habits or an unhealthy lifestyle in children.

Another complaint about the same advert was not upheld. 

Meal prep

The IHF issued a complaint regarding another Apache Pizza advert, which was posted on its Instagram page. 

The post featured five lunch boxes, each containing a slice of pizza.

The text above the boxes stated: “I’m really getting into this meal prep thing…”

The text to the right-hand side of the boxes read: “apachepizzaireland Did you have enough self-control to keep some slices for your Monday work lunch? If not there’s always next week!”

The IHF objected to the post, claiming it was irresponsible to suggest that meal preparation should take the form of pizza slices every time. 

The IHF said that this type of marketing should be prevented, especially as young teenagers may view the post and be influenced by its contents.

Apache Pizza said that having investigated the complaint, it decided to immediately withdraw the post from all platforms as it had never been their intention to encourage unhealthy eating habits.

The advertiser said it would also ensure that all future posts did not condone excessive eating and adhere to all guidelines.

The ASAI upheld this complaint in part. 

The complaints committee noted the text “keep some slices for your Monday work lunch”, which it said could imply a recommendation that all five boxes should be consumed in one sitting.

However, the committee considered that the visual representation, together with the main headline “I’m really getting into this meal prep thing….”, implied five separate meals.

On that basis, they did not consider that the advertisement encouraged or condoned excess consumption.

The committee also noted, however, that a mixed and varied diet was recommended as good dietary practice. 

The committee considered that in potentially suggesting that each lunch should consist solely of a pizza slice, the advertisement had encouraged an unhealthy/unbalanced eating habit and was therefore in breach of Section 8.4 of the Code.


The IHF also took issue with an Instagram post for Offbeat Donuts.

The post featured a box of 12 Offbeat Donuts of different varieties.

The top of the box read “Dear Santa” while the bottom of the box read “ONE DOZEN PLEASE!”.

The box also contained a cartoon-like image of Santa Clause in the bottom right-hand corner and the bottom left-hand corner featured the words “HO HO HO”. The text which accompanied the imagery read as follows: “Offbeatdonuts Final requests for Santa on the lead up to the big day… we know what we want!!!”

In this instance, the IHF considered that the post could possibly have been interpreted as being addressed to children with the “Dear Santa” message provided on the top of the box.

It considered that the post encouraged excess consumption and poor nutritional habits in children.

Offbeat Donuts said they wished to offer their assurance that their posts had not been directed to children but had rather been directed to adults who had the purchasing power. They said the average age of their Instagram followers was 25 and no advertising spend had been targeted at a younger audience. 

They said the purpose of their advertising had not been to make light of healthy eating choices but reiterated that the purpose had been to involve their brand in the Christmas season alongside the nostalgia surrounding the Late Late Toy Show.

The ASAI did not uphold the complaint from the IHF in relation to Offbeat Donuts. 

The Irish Heart Foundation said in a statement today that it submitted complaints to ASAI showing how the online posts were breaking the advertising standards by making fun of healthy diets, using promotions to engage young people and encouraging children to overconsume junk food during the Christmas period.

“We know junk food marketing is fuelling obesity, obesity is damaging children and the State is failing to protect children’s health,” IHF advocacy campaigns officer Helena O’Donnell said.

“We must introduce a ban on junk food marketing to children on digital and broadcast channels.”

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