Irish children exposed to over 1,350 junk food adverts during the World Cup

The Irish Heart Foundation wants a TV watershed on junk food marketing to be extended

Irish children exposed to over 1,350 junk food adverts during the World Cup

A view of the World Cup pitch at Luzhniki Stadium with pitch-side adverts | Image: Facebook/FIFA World Cup

New analysis has suggested that children watching the World Cup knockout stages were inundated by adverts for unhealthy food.

The research by the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) revealed that on average, nearly 17 minutes of in-match digital brand displays for food and drink high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) were shown.

It says a total of 285 minutes of this type of advertising was transmitted to viewers in Ireland across the knockout stage.

The foundation has called for a TV watershed on junk food marketing to be extended to 9.00pm.

Its findings also revealed the total number of junk food adverts viewed during the knockout games came to 1,357: 1,317 pitch-side digital billboard displays and 40 television ads.

Across the knockout stage, a total of 285 minutes of this type of advertising was transmitted to viewers in Ireland.

Pitch-side billboard displays accounted for 267 minutes and TV ads for 18 minutes.

While pitch-side billboards displays for food and drink high in fat, salt and sugar ads appeared 65 to 108 times per match.

'Association with high-performance sport'

Lead researcher Mimi Tatlow-Golden, of Open University, said: "Children are influenced by the strong emotions of match play and their sporting heroes.

"This kind of marketing during sporting events creates powerful positive and healthy associations with junk food brands – the opposite of reality.

"Exposure to HFSS foods and drinks advertising is unavoidable while watching the 2018 World Cup knockout matches.

"Drinks were marketed in a performance or lifestyle-boosting context in television adverts.

"Humour and content to appeal to an Irish audience was used for many of the HFSS adverts.

"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 – football is a global sport but sadly obesity is now a global health issue."

'Extend existing regulations'

The Irish Heart Foundation’s policy manager Kathryn Reilly added: "This research clearly illustrates that Ireland’s watershed of 6.00pm is not sufficient.

"The 25% cap on advertising outside of children’s programming and the content rules are merely tokenistic, leaving large numbers of children still exposed to adverts for unhealthy foods.

"To protect children from adverts that we know can influence what food they want to eat, the Government should extend existing regulations to restrict HFSS advertising on TV until after the 9.00pm watershed."

She also suggested that brands that advertise HFSS food and drinks should not be allowed to sponsor prime time family TV shows.