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sweet truth HSE obesity expert warns that over-consumption of chocolate and sweets is a 'real issue'

'The Christmas selection boxes out a month before Halloween, piled up and in your face right beside the checkouts'

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Obesity rates among children rose significantly over lockdown (PA)

Obesity rates among children rose significantly over lockdown (PA)

Obesity rates among children rose significantly over lockdown (PA)

Chocolate and sweets could be put behind supermarket counters in plain packaging to deter over-consumption, one of the HSE’s health experts has suggested. 

The HSE's clinical lead for obesity, Dr Donal O'Shea, warned that “we are way over-consuming” and that it is becoming a real issue.

Dr O'Shea was speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning as it was revealed that some 37,000 tonnes of chocolate was bought in Ireland last year.

"I think this year there seems to have been almost a surge in the product placement over and above previous years,” Dr O’Shea said.

"The Christmas selection boxes out a month before Halloween, piled up and in your face right beside the checkouts.

"Everything the food and drinks industry said they would start moving away from, they just seem to have stepped it up.

"And that's because there's lack of regulation, they can't help themselves - it's profit, and it's this year's profit, so they can't stop doing it.

"We're way over-consuming.

"The line of moderation is fine, but again the manufacturers play on that and push hard for over-consumption - and they're winning.”

However, according to Dr O’Shea, parents can take action to make sweets less attraction to children.

He said that "out of sight is important” and that accessibility “no more than for alcohol or cigarettes” is vital.

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“There's research to say it works, like there is with other initiatives like calorie posting on menu boards,” he said.

"What we know from research that SafeFood have done that parents want to discuss this their kids.

"Parents do understand that over-consumption is going on and they want to moderate it, and they want practical tips.

“So (hiding sweets and chocolate in) the boot of the car is a good trick or out in the garage, if you have a garage.”

He revealed that research suggests plain packaged sweets makes them less attractive to younger children, “but again the industry is fantastic at lobbying to obstruct this”, he added.

“The Public Health Alcohol Bill was a really good example of just how powerful the industry is in lobbying,” he added.

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