Getting hot under the collar about ice-cream vans

Tackling obesity is not about regulation, it’s about educating parents and children

It’s not up to Government to play rounders with children in Ireland, it’s up to parents. Photograph: Getty Images.

It’s not up to Government to play rounders with children in Ireland, it’s up to parents. Photograph: Getty Images.

Mon, Jun 16, 2014, 01:00

If one were to make a list of priorities concerning child welfare in Ireland, ice cream is probably not “up there”. Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone, an enemy of ice cream cones everywhere, thinks otherwise, raising the issue in the Seanad, and not doing those in favour of the retention of that House of the Oireachtas any flavours, sorry, favours.

The “persistent use of chimes in public streets and in estates is an aggressive form of selling and it wouldn’t be countenanced in any other industry”, Noone said about the scourge of ice-cream vans roaming our streets with impunity. I can think of many aggressive forms of selling, but the off-key melody to Mary Had A Little Lamb playing over a speaker isn’t one of them.

Noone said there was one particularly persistent ice cream van in Wexford, and a mother told her the van’s presence was leading to rows with one of her children about whether she should allow that child have ice cream and slushy drinks. Call an emergency sitting of the Dáil!

That reminds me, I must get on to my local TD because the other day, my flatmate took the milk out of the fridge and didn’t put it back. Was it for this the wild geese spread? Surely, at this stage, there needs to be some legislative intervention to encourage return-to-fridge milk action?

Political oratory

In what was one of the great examples of political oratory in recent times, the demon ice cream vans were debated.

One Senator, close to tears, rose to his feet: “Life springs from death, and from the vans of patriot ice lollies spring living treats. The defenders of this realm have worked well in estates and on country roads. They think they have satisfied Ireland. They think they have purchased half a 99 and intimidated the other half.

“They think they have foreseen sprinkles, think they have provided against Wibbly Wobbly Wonders; but the food, the food, the food! They have left us our melted Tangle Twister, and while Ireland holds these cones, Ireland defrosted will never have a piece.” OK, maybe that bit didn’t happen.

Noone has form in rallying against sugar, previously highlighting the level of sugar in caramel frappuccinos. She also recently said “banning” running in the schoolyard meant children were losing out on an opportunity to exercise during breaktime. Sugar, obesity and a prescriptive approach to both are obviously Noone’s thing. She is of course right, but unfortunately frames her arguments in a manner open to trivialisation.

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