Call for more balance in debate on obesity


The obesity debate must move away from the “demonisation” of the food industry, the Nutrition and Health Foundation told the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine yesterday.

The foundation is funded by the food and beverage industry. Its manager, Dr Muireann Cullen, called for more balance in the debate about obesity and said it was easy to demonise certain foods without looking at other causes of obesity.

“We know as a nation we are not as physically active as we used to be. It’s gone through the floor,” she said.

Research in the UK had found “completely and utterly abysmal” levels of physical activity and this would probably be mirrored here.

“When we look at our teens, you are lucky if 10 or 15 per cent of them are actually meeting the requirements for physical activity,” said Dr Cullen.

“It’s about having the balance. For me personally, as a healthcare professional, there is no such thing as a bad food. It’s how often you are eating it, how much you are eating of it and also how you are cooking it.”

She said the foundation was involved in research on eating habits at cinemas and was surveying people about their food and drink consumption at the movies.

“What are they purchasing? Who are they purchasing for? What portion size? [We want to] see whether or not we can undertake an initiative around healthy options in cinemas,” she said.

“It depends what consumers say to us at the end. It could be ‘the cinema is our treat area, leave it alone’.”