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20 May 2022

Kildare GP says commercial visibility of chocolate at Christmas should be reconsidered

Kildare GP says commercial visibility of chocolate at Christmas should be reconsidered

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A GP from Kildare has said that shops and supermarkets should rethink their strategies when it comes to displaying chocolate at Christmas time.

Speaking to Kildare FM Radio, Dr Brendan O'Shea, the HSE's Clinical Lead for Obesity, has criticised the food and drinks industry.

His comments follow after another GP, Dr Donal O' Shea, recently made the same criticism of the industry.

Using one example, Dr Brendan O' Shea claimed that Christmas chocolate tubs and selection boxes are "in your face" in supermarkets.

He added that, in terms of advertising, they should be treated in the same way as cigarettes (advertising cigarettes has been prohibited in Ireland since 2009) and alcohol.

It comes just under a week after new restrictions came into effect limiting the advertisement of alcohol during sports events and events focused on children.

Referring to the rising rates of obesity in Ireland, he told host Ciara Noble: "Chocolate at the checkout isn't the main part of it, but it is definitely a part of it."

"It's also the aggressive and intelligent marketing of energy-dense foods to the population."

Dr Brendan O' Shea continued: "Can we do better with this? Of course we can do better with it; we need to make it easier for parents and retired people (in particular)."

Advertising concerns:

According to an article published in the Economics Observatory earlier this year, there is evidence which suggests that advertising leads people to consume more unhealthy foods.

Using the UK as an example, it said that its spending on junk food advertising drastically outweighs what the government spends to promote healthy eating: "In 2017, for example, the top 18 UK brands spent over £143 million on adverts, which was nearly 30 times what the government spent on their flagship healthy eating campaign, Change 4 Life (£5.2 million annually)."

In addition, the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) reported on a link between alcohol exposure and consumption.

The study featured more than 1,000 adults and was carried out by researchers at the Institute for Social Marketing at the University of Stirling in the UK.

According to the survey, 94 per cent "reported seeing at least one form of alcohol marketing in the past month, with television, billboards, celebrity endorsement, price offers, and sponsorship the activities most frequently reported, while at least half of adults reported seeing three or more instances of alcohol marketing per day in the past month, with monthly awareness higher among males and younger age groups."

The study also revealed that alcohol exposure in the media increased the likelihood of weekly drinking, monthly heavy episodic drinking (HED), and higher-risk drinking.

An Oireachtas committee was also told earlier today by the both Irish Cancer Society and the IHF that advertising restrictions should also be implemented for vapes and e-cigarettes, in the same manner as tobacco products.

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