A Donegal mum has spoken out against the junk food marketing that her child is being exposed to every day.

Breege Doherty, a mum-of-one, lives in Stranorlar and says she finds the way brands can sponsor family shows such as weekend movies on TV after 6pm inappropriate, given childhood obesity rates in Ireland.

“We want to empower parents to challenge the narrative that they are the ones at fault for childhood obesity and I encourage everyone to sign the Irish Heart Foundation’s petition at www.irishheart.ie/stoptargetingkids to protect the future of our children’s health,” says Breege.

“What we are specifically calling for is for the Government to put mandatory restrictions and penalties on junk food companies who market to kids online and on broadcast media.

“There should be no junk food marketing to children at all and as part of this campaign, I have lodged complaints to regulators about the types of unhealthy food marketing young people are exposed to.”

Breege Doherty from Stranorlar

The Irish Heart Foundation says research by Ipsos MRBI proves the public is now overwhelmingly demanding the Government keeps a promise to introduce new laws protecting youngsters from junk food marketing.

The data shows that 85% of people support a crackdown on fast food ads in kids’ online games and apps as experts warn we face “losing a generation of children” to obesity-related disease.

The charity says children as young as eight are presenting with high blood pressure and young people are showing early signs of heart disease usually seen in middle-aged men.

“More children will go on to suffer heart disease and stroke in the future,” said Helena O’Donnell, Childhood Obesity Campaign Manager with the Irish Heart Foundation.

“Twenty per cent of children live with overweight or obesity and what we have noticed is that inequality remains quite strong, with rates in disadvantaged areas reaching one in four (25%).”

The Irish Heart Foundation says the Government now needs to wage war on unhealthy food marketing. A partial ban on broadcast advertising to children was introduced in 2013 – but the move sparked an upsurge in unregulated digital marketing.

“Brands have now achieved an inappropriate proximity to children online, engaging relentlessly in school, at home and even in their bedrooms, mostly through smartphones. The State is failing to protect children’s health,” said Ms O’Donnell.

The charity is asking the public to join the 7,500 people who have already backed the initiative by signing the online petition at www.irishheart.ie/stoptargetingkids.