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Government to target sugar, salt, fat and big portion sizes in fight against obesity

Advertising to children will also be targeted as part of the plan.

Image: person on scales via Shutterstock

TODAY THE GOVERNMENT launched its plan to fight obesity in Ireland, promising to help empower people to make healthier choices in their lives.

At the launch of an obesity policy action plan to cover the next ten years, Health Minister Simon Harris said “rising levels of overweight and obesity are placing an increasing burden on individuals and society and this represents one of the biggest public health challenges Ireland is facing today”.

The plan contains sixty specific actions and includes new healthy eating guidelines, legislation on calorie posting, the development of a nutrition policy and a prioritisation of obesity service in the health service.

Included in the plan, is a commitment to developing proposals on a levy on sugar-sweetened drinks and a review of the effectiveness of fiscal measures on high fat, salt and sugar products.

The government will also consider measures to introduce maximum portion sizes for relevant foods and drinks, on a voluntary basis initially. The effects of these measures, the policy document says, should be regularly monitored.

Advertising will also be targeted under the plan, with a submission to be made to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s review of advertising to children, particularly in relation to energy dense food and drinks.

Commenting today, Minister of State for Health Promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, said there “is no single solution to addressing the causes and problems associated with overweight and obesity”.

This policy sets out effective and sustainable actions that will be taken by government, statutory and other sectors, communities and individuals. These include legislative, fiscal and environmental measures. Prevention is key and there will be a focus on children and on reducing the inequalities that are evident.”

The plan was broadly welcomed, with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland stating it offers an “unprecedented opportunity to create a healthier nation”.

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Bodies representing the food and drinks industry were less welcoming.

“There are elements of the new policy that the food and drink industry can support through our work on effective measures like product reformulation, nutrition labelling, product choice and workplace wellbeing,” commented Food and Drink Industry Ireland (FDII) Director Paul Kelly.

“However, the food sector is adamantly opposed to the inclusion of policy measures, like food and beverage taxes, which are unfair, discriminatory and not evidence based.”

Poll: Would you be happy to pay a sugar tax to help fight obesity?>

Read: How the sugar-trafficking food industry paid scientists to tell us fat, not sugar, was the real problem>

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