The Government has stepped up its plans to tackle Ireland's growing obesity crisis through the establishment of a task force to look at ways saturated fat, salt sugar and calories can be reduced in processed food on sale in Ireland.
Along with the task force the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and the Minister of State for Public Health Frank Feighan also published a 'Roadmap for Food and Product Reformation in Ireland'.
Mr Donnelly highlighted the links between diet and non-communicable diseases which, he said, were “well-established”. He noted that it was “particularly the case in economically disadvantaged areas, where people tend to eat more processed food”.
He suggested that the task force would work with the food industry “to combat inequality by improving the quality of the food available”.
Mr Feighan said people were “living very busy lives and it is not always easy, even with the best of intentions, to eat or buy the healthiest option”.
He suggested that the task force and road map were “an important and positive step forward for all of our health and wellbeing and will help to improve the nutritional quality of the processed food available to consumers and will have tangible benefits for public health”.
The Food Reformulation Task Force will sit within the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and will provide "a dedicated resource to work with all levels of industry to ensure progress and to address the difficulties that may arise in the highly technical process of reformulation".
FSAI chief executive Dr Pamela Byrne said the reformulation of foods has been proven to have a "positive impact on the quality of the diet and reducing salt, sugar and saturated fats in food products will positively contribute to a healthier population". She said the FSAI would be engaging "with the food industry and other stakeholder" over the next four years.
Food reformulation is also central plank of the EU’s “Farm to Fork” Strategy and Minister for Agriculture and Food Charlie McConalogue said it would form part of strategy to highlight the link between food and health.
The move comes as more retailers and producers move to make their products less harmful.
Bread makers have been incrementally cutting the salt in their products for more than a decade while Kelloggs has reduced the the sugar levels in some of the most popular children’s breakfast cereals on the market by up to 40 per cent. About 1.2kg of sugar was removed annually from children’s diets between 2005 and 2017, research suggests.