Maintaining health and safety means more than just ensuring that a workspace is accident proof. Health may occasionally be overlooked, but caring for our minds and bodies is just as vital as watching out for slipping hazards. This is why it was so encouraging to come across a news story this week, published by the Food Navigator, that centred on the moves Ireland is making to help create a healthier future for the country.
Ireland is due to make health history this month when it officially rolls out a new voluntary code of practice for marketing, product placement and sponsorship on high fat, salt and sugar foods (HFSS). They will be the first country to adopt this measure.
The code comes as the result of tireless work by the Department of Health, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and food makers over the last 18 months. And the code couldn’t come soon enough – Ireland is set to become the most obese country in Europe by 2020, with the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s latest figures reporting that the percentage of obese and overweight men in Ireland is projected to rise to 89%. Meanwhile, for women this figure stands at 85%.
The minister of state for health promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, spoke at the annual WHO European Action Networks on Salt and on Reducing Marketing Pressure to Children last month concerning the issue. Within her speech, she noted the pioneering nature of the code: “I understand that our code with guidelines on sponsorship will be a global first,” she commented.
However, while she welcomed the finalisation of the legislation, she acknowledges that Ireland – and indeed the rest of the world – still has a way to go. It will also be a community driven feet as the code is voluntary, hence public participation is set to prove essential for the scheme’s long-term success.
The code will also include an open-access register of companies that have signed up, as well as a public complaints procedure. The new guidelines will encompass online, outdoor, print and cinema marketing, in addition to commercial sponsorship and retail product placement. Kennedy also hopes to eventually press food companies into complying with a 9pm watershed for HFSS advertising on radio and TV.
Moves to block HSSF advertisements before the watershed is just one way that the Irish health body is hoping to combat childhood obesity. Alongside the UK and Belgium, Ireland has already put a ban on celebrity endorsements for unhealthy food and drinks. Elsewhere in the guidelines, it also stipulates that there should be a restriction on the marketing of unhealthy foods in places frequented by children, such as schools, crèches and playgrounds.
Nutritional profiling – a method used for determining the nutrient content of 100g of a food or drink – will be utilised to assess whether a food or drink qualifies as HFSS. The model, which was originally created by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) awards points for ‘A’ nutrients (energy, saturated fat, total sugar and sodium), and for ‘C’ nutrients (fruit, vegetables and nut content, fibre and protein).
What other methods do you think the government could employ to promote healthier lifestyles?