Health

Thursday 21 August 2014

Every 4.2 mins... kids' TV stuffed with junk food

Fast-food and sugar-sweetened beverage cues were observed in high proportion in tween programming.
Fast-food and sugar-sweetened beverage cues were observed in high proportion in tween programming.

THE extent to which Irish children are exposed to television ads for foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt during their favourite programmes is revealed in a new survey.

Researchers looked at five weekdays, involving 82.5 hours of television broadcasting, which was targeted at children on both Irish (RTE) and UK (BBC) channels.

The results showed:

* A total of 1,155 food cues were recorded, one every 4.2 minutes.

* Each cue lasted an average of 12.3 seconds.

* In the majority of cases, the cues involved sugary snacks and sweets.

* Fast-food and sugar-sweetened beverage cues were observed in high proportion in tween programming.

The research was carried out by the Children's Ark, University Hospital Limerick,the National Children's Research Centre, Dublin, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada and the Centre for Interventions in Infection, Inflammation and Immunity, Graduate Entry Medical School, Limerick, Ireland.

The authors said: "The findings from this study provide further evidence for the prominence of unhealthy foods and beverages in children's programming. Of particular interest is the high prevalence of fast-food and sugar-sweetened cues associated with tween-programming."

Meanwhile, a separate study by the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University College Cork, has found that food allergy is a growing public health issue, particularly in infants and children.

Both undiagnosed and misdiagnosed food allergy may negatively influence an infant's physical and emotional development.

The incidence of food allergy in Irish children is not yet known.

Studies in other populations may not be readily applicable to Irish children due to higher prevalence of Atopic Disease and differing early feeding practice.

They recruited 2,137 infants from July 2008 to October 2011. Infants attended for appointment shortly after birth and at two, six and 12 months. Screening questions regarding food allergy were asked at each clinic visit.

The results showed that 1,745 infants were still enrolled at 12 months. Adverse reaction to a food was reported for 11.7 per cent (204/1,745) of participants.

They followed up 199 reports. The most commonly implicated foods were: dairy (81), egg (52) and fruit (32).

Six infants were sensitised with a positive clinical history. Individual food allergy cumulative incidence was: egg 2.52 per cent, cow's milk 1.09 per cent, wheat 0.06 per cent, peanut 0.06 per cent and tree nut 0.06 per cent by 12 months. Overall, 11 per cent of infants have a suspected food reaction in their first year.

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