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Press Release

Minister Byrne launches new Codes of Practice for the advertising and marketing of food and non-alcoholic drinks

Published: 14 February 2018
From: Department of Health

Minister of State for Health Promotion, Catherine Byrne TD, today (Wednesday) launched new voluntary Codes of Practice for the advertising and marketing of food and non-alcoholic drinks.

The purpose of the Codes, which have been agreed with the food industry, is to ensure that foods high in fat, salt and sugar are marketed in a responsible way. In particular the Codes seek to ensure that children are not exposed to inappropriate marketing, advertising or sponsorship associated with these kinds of food and drink products, and that healthier food choices are actively promoted.

Minister Byrne said:

“I welcome the development of these Codes and I want to acknowledge the collaborative approach to their development by a multi-stakeholder group involving representatives from the food industry, advertising sector, statutory agencies and various Departments of State. The Codes aim to moderate the exposure of the general population, and particularly children, to foods high in fat, salt and sugar. In effect, its purpose is to reduce the exposure of children to unhealthy foods. It is clear from our Healthy Eating Guidelines and Food Pyramid that these are foods and drinks that should only be consumed a maximum of once or twice a week. In the interests of people’s health, these are not foods for every day, yet the current food environment does not adequately support this message. This needs to change and the Codes will help support that change.”

The Minister added:

“These Codes of Practice represent an opportunity to discourage unhealthy food consumption choices and patterns which can contribute to ill health, overweight and obesity, and chronic disease. They also, importantly, acknowledge the role the food and retail sectors have in actively promoting healthy eating, such as people eating more fruit and veg.”

Commenting on the Codes of Practice, Minister for Health Simon Harris said:

“Healthy Eating is a key theme of our Healthy Ireland 2018 campaign, which is encouraging people to make simple changes to improve their health. These include drinking more water, eating more fruit and veg, and limiting their intake of foods high in fat, sugar and salt. It is important for our health, both in the short and longer term, that we all start to make these changes, if we are to achieve a healthier Ireland. So I welcome and acknowledge the good start we are making here today with this new agreement and commitment, and I commend the food and retail sectors for signing up to these Codes."
“Our advice to people about how to eat healthily is clear from our guidelines and food pyramid. Our START campaign, which aims to support parents build healthy lifestyle habits, has lots of advice and tips for parents on how do eat more healthily as a family. But we need to continue to work with all sectors, including the food industry, so that the healthier choice becomes the easier choice for every family, in every community.”

The Codes of Practice are the culmination of 15 months of cooperation and collaboration with the various sectors including IBEC, Food Drink Ireland, Retail Ireland, Irish Beverage Council, Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland, Association of Advertisers in Ireland, Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland, Food Safety Authority of Ireland, safefood, HSE, Department of Food, Agriculture and the Marine and Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Professor Alan Reilly, former CEO of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, chaired the group. All stakeholders have agreed to the codes.

They have also agreed to support any other organisation, agency or service operator that wishes to accept and honour this agreement.

For Ireland, these Codes signify a number of things:

  • Ireland has a first ever agreement in relation to food advertising, marketing and sponsorship in the non-broadcast media
  • The agencies have agreed, for the first time, to use a model for adults that determines the composition of nutrients in food (a Nutrient Profiling Model ) for the classification of food High in Fat, Sugar and Salt (HFSS)
  • The various agencies have agreed variable rates of reduction in advertising, marketing and sponsorship of HFSS. This will result in a significant reduction of exposure of children and adults to HFSS in a variety of settings including out of home, print media, cinemas and the education sector
  • Retail Ireland has agreed to increase its promotion (via product placement and in store promotions) of healthier options


Notes to the Editor:

Healthy Ireland 2018 Campaign

A new communications and citizen engagement campaign, Healthy Ireland 2018, was launched by An Taoiseach on 6th January. The campaign, which focuses on three key themes – Healthy Eating, Physical Activity and Mental Wellbeing – aims to encourage people to make positive choices to improve their physical and mental health, while also providing support and information to help people make those healthier choices. More information is available on gov.ie/healthyireland.

About the National Obesity Policy & Action Plan

A national Obesity Policy and Action Plan was launched by the Minister of Health in September 2016. The national policy covers the period up to 2025 and aims to reverse obesity trends, prevent health complications and reduce the overall burden for individuals, families, the health system, and the wider society and economy. The Policy acknowledged that every sector of our society has a role in reducing the burden of obesity.

The Obesity Policy prescribed ‘Ten Steps Forward’ that would be taken to prevent overweight and obesity. Under each step there are a number of actions, some of which have been identified for early implementation. The position with some of these actions are as follows:

  • The department has established an Obesity Policy Implementation Oversight Group. The national Obesity Policy Implementation Oversight Group – under the Chair of the Department of Health – is comprised of representatives from the following departments and agencies: Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Department of Children and Youth Affairs; Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection; Department of Education and Skills; Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government; University College Cork; the Food Safety Authority of Ireland; the Health Service Executive (HSE) – including the National Clinical Lead for Obesity; and safefood. Two sub-groups, focusing on Healthy Eating and on Reformulation have been established and commenced work.
  • The Minister for Finance has announced in Budget 2018 the introduction of a sugar tax on sugar-sweetened drinks. The policy objective of this levy is to reduce rates of obesity, as well as rates of dental deterioration particularly in young people.
  • A new child obesity campaign, developed by the department, safefood and the HSE was launched in November 2017. The START campaign aims to inspire, empower and support parents to start building and persist with healthy lifestyle habits in the family to prevent childhood obesity.
  • New Healthy Eating Guidelines, Food Pyramid and supporting resources have already been published, disseminated and communicated in 2017, including dissemination of the new Guidelines earlier this month to all primary and post-primary schools. Work has now commenced on developing Healthy Eating Guidelines for the 1-5 year old age group.
  • New Nutrition Standards for schools, with an initial focus on school meal programmes funded by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, have also been developed. These Nutrition Standards were launched by the Ministers for Health, Education and Skills, and Employment Affairs and Social Protection in September 2017. The development and implementation of these Standards meets commitments in the DEIS Action Plan as well as the Obesity Policy.
  • Other developments in the HSE, through a new Healthy Eating, Active Living programme will support work in the education sector, as well as with parents, families and communities in supporting a more co-ordinated approach to prevention and early intervention in child obesity.

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