Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Justice, Children and Youth Affairs, Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee has said a number of interventions must be made to prevent any further rise in childhood obesity in Ireland.

Research carried out and launched by this week by the Food Safety Promotion Board, Safefood has indicated that one in four Irish children are overweight or obese at a lifetime cost to State of over €4 billion euro.

Commenting on the information, Clifford-Lee said, “Childhood obesity remains one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century and one which varies considerably in accordance with socio-economic status.

“The lifetime cost of obesity to the State has been estimated at approximately €4.6 billion in direct and indirect costs and this is set to increase unless it is promptly addressed. It also has major negative consequences in terms of quality of life issues.

“The ESRI, Growing up in Ireland study which was published earlier this month also revealed that 20% of children living in the lowest income bracket are overweight while 7% have been classified as being obese.

“It is evident from these recent studies that Ireland has a major challenge to overcome. The results of both should have implications for the way in which this State drives policy.

The Senator added, “In an effort to prevent obesity as well as related diseases among children through behavioural change, Fianna Fáil continues to call for the introduction of a 20% tax on sugar sweetened drinks (SSDs).

“We are also committed to expanding the School Meals Programme to reach children from disadvantaged backgrounds attending non-DEIS schools and put in place a national taskforce for monitoring progress on this issue.

“The long-term solution to childhood obesity must be multi-faceted and include the promotion of physical exercise and tougher restrictions on the advertising of high fat, high salt and high saturated fat foods which specifically target children.

The Senator concluded, “The need to address the gap between better off and less advantaged children has never been more apparent and it is crucial that we target resources at lower socioeconomic schools and communities.”