'Coca-Cola ads target children aged seven' - obesity expert
Children as young as seven are being targeted by Coca-Cola's "Share a Coke" campaign, a leading medic has claimed.
The campaign, which features popular names on the Coke bottles, is a form of advertising to children by stealth, said Professor Donal O'Shea, who was speaking as he launched a hard-hitting report on the measures needed to halt the obesity epidemic.
"Almost all of the 100 most popular names of seven- or eight-year-olds are included in their campaign," he said. He also criticised the company for what he said was a breach its own promise not to target children under 12 with the drink, which weighs in at 140 calories a bottle.
Mr O'Shea, who treats obese patients in St Columcille's Hospital, Dublin, warned that the Government needed to get tougher to "protect children from slick advertising and marketing of food and drinks known to increase overweight and obesity".
The obesity report, The Race We Don't Want to Win, by experts in the Royal College of Physicians' policy group on obesity, said rising rates of obesity threatened to make Ireland the fattest country in Europe by 2030. Doctors need to ensure that obesity is recorded as a cause of death in people whose body mass index is above the normal range, it said.
It also called for drastic measures to prevent 90pc of the population becoming overweight or obese, including the introduction of a 20pc "sugar tax" on sweetened drinks in the October Budget.
"Despite the regressive nature of the tax, the burden is likely to represent a very small percentage of household income," it said. It suggested that the tax could cut the numbers of obese and overweight adults by 14,380 and generate €57.5m in revenue. It would cost an average household between €35 and €43 a year - which works out at between 67c and 82c a week.
It also called for a ban on TV advertising of foods high in fat, salt and sugar up to 9pm and the outlawing of all marketing of these products to children.
The Food and Drink Industry of Ireland (FDII) said companies here worked with some of the "most restrictive advertising restrictions in the world", both regulatory and self-imposed.
FDII director Paul Kelly said: "A discriminatory tax on certain food and drink products would have no health benefits and would further hit already hard-pressed Irish consumers. It was tried in Denmark, but was reversed as it did not change consumer behaviour."
A spokeswoman for Coca-Cola in Ireland declined to respond to Mr O'Shea's comments.