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Irish campaign to curb excessive snacking

By Peter Stiff , 28-Nov-2005

Safefood, the food safety promotion board of Ireland, has launched a campaign aimed at encouraging parents to allow their children to eat snack foods as treats only, and not as part of an everyday diet.

The campaign's ultimate goal is to prevent long-term health problems for children caused by a diet overloaded with treat foods, such as chocolate, crisps, biscuits and cakes.

This follows results from the National Children's Nutrition Survey, conducted by the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance, revealing that 20 per cent of boys and 23 per cent of girls are either overweight or obese.

As a result heart disease and diabetes in children is on the up. According to figures from the Diabetics Federation of Ireland cases of diabetes in children has risen from 1445 in 2001 to 2224 in 2003, a 55 per cent rise in only two years.

The group's campaign is composed of several key arguments coupled with advice for parents:

Treat foods are typically nutritionally lacking, high in fat, saturated fat and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients such as protein and fibre. By filling up on these there is less room for more nutritious foods in children's diets.

Another argument used is that a child's long-term health may be effected, referring to heart disease and diabetes.

The campaign does not aim to abolish treat foods altogether, but suggests that they be enjoyed sensibly and are supplementary to main meals. Parents can control this through children's lunch boxes at school. It is also highlighted that laying good foundations for healthy eating habits is essential to a child's development.

Safefood, the food safety promotion board, works to promote and research into food safety as well as communicate food alerts and act as a surveillance body for food borne diseases alongside other tasks.

The National Children's Survey studied 5-12 year olds in the Republic of Ireland. It discovered that cakes, biscuits, savoury snacks, chocolate and confectionery contribute 18 per cent of children's energy intake and 21 per cent of their total fat intake.

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