Dr Aileen McGloin, Head of Nutrition, Safefood; Minister of State at the Department of Health, Colm Burke TD and Philip Boucher-Hayes, broadcaster at at the launch of Safefood’s Building a Healthier Food Environment campaign. Photo: Andres Poveda

Building a healthier food environment

By Maisie Mould

A five-year public health campaign was launched recently in the wake of alarming new statistics pertaining to food related health.

The new public health campaign from Safefood Ireland aims to build a healthier food environment for Ireland and protect children’s health, and was launched by the Minister of State at the Department of Health Colm Burke TD.

Safefood’s research shows that our food environment has deteriorated from previous generations, and food related ill-health is now the predominant cause of preventable illness and death in the developed world.

Over 70% of people say they see snack foods for sale in non-food locations like bookshops, and eight of the ten top selling food brands in Ireland are ‘unhealthy’.

Studies show that children are vulnerable, exposed to high levels of food marketing with nearly two-thirds of pre-schoolers able to recognise unhealthy food logos.

Deputy Burke said: “The new public health campaign aims to protect the health and wellbeing of children by firstly prompting us all to think and talk about our food environment.”

Dr Aileen McGloin, Director of Nutrition at Safefood, said: “If we stop and look around at our own environment, we begin to see how much unhealthy food and drink surrounds us, said, “Our campaign ads show how overwhelming this is from a child’s eye view.”

One in five children in Ireland are either overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer in later life.

Dr McGloin continued: “We’re at an important moment in time and we know how our food environment is harmful to our health and our children’s health. We must ask ourselves – is this what we want?”

The campaign’s hashtag #TalkAboutFood encourages Irish adults to have open conversations in order to spark positive change.

Dr Gary A. Kearney, Chief Executive at Safefood, said the campaign “is a move away from personal responsibility towards a broader societal response. For many years, many public health bodies have been encouraging people to eat healthily, but it is virtually impossible to do so in an environment that doesn’t support this.”