It may come as a shock for parents to hear the results of a recent study analysing the correlation between junk food adverts and childhood obesity.
The study was conducted by the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) during the World Cup. They found that children were ‘exposed to over 1,350 junk food adverts’ in total.
The World Cup is a massive global event that pulls attention from family audiences all over the world, heavily influencing child viewers.
In the knockout stage alone, almost five hours of advertising for foods high in fat, sugar, and salt (HFSS) were shown on screen.
Not only were viewers overloaded with unhealthy commercials, but the cameras also showed pitch-side billboards plastered with the same message.
The study revealed that ‘per match, an average of nearly 17 minutes of HFSS in-match digital brand displays were shown.’
"This research is crucial in demonstrating the extent of junk food brand advertising in association with high-performance sport. Strong concerted international action is needed if we are to protect children’s rights to grow in healthy environments," said lead researcher, Mimi Tatlow-Golden.
Associating the fame of professional football with junk foods is unrealistic, she suggests, and is misleading today’s children into establishing unhealthy eating habits.
In 2013, an attempt was made to limit these ads by implementing time restrictions.
However, IHF policy manager, Kathryn Reilly, said the 6 pm watershed is not enough.“ The [restrictions] are merely tokenistic, leaving large numbers of children still exposed to adverts for unhealthy foods.”
She pushed for the watershed be extended until 9 pm and for HFSS to be banned from advertising during any family shows. Hopefully, this study will have an effective impact on readers.
Today, children in Ireland alone are shown over 1,000 HFSS adverts per year, and that is just on TV. Our children should be encouraged to maintain a healthy diet. so they can feel strong and energised, like the footballers they idolise.
Let’s break this habit and spread awareness of unhealthy adverts influencing children daily. It is time to make a change and push for a healthier future for our little ones.