I move amendment No. 1a:
In page 2, after line 32, to insert:—
"(e) advertising of food, including health foods,".
On the debate on Second Reading, a number of speakers, including the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputies Collins, Brennan and myself, made reference to the necessity to control the advertising of food and, in particular, the types of food that have become known in recent times as health foods. In this Bill "food" includes items that would ordinarily be referred to as drink.
A number of examples were given of outrageous claims for the efficacy, or alleged efficacy, of certain products, particularly in the quasi-health field. It was agreed by all concerned, including the Minister for Industry and Commerce, that these claims were usually without foundation and that they misled people who did not have sufficient scientific knowledge of the value or otherwise of the commodities in question.
Because they misled people they tended to create an artifical demand for certain products which would not be there if people were aware of the true nature of the substances in question, and if they were aware of the fact that they did not have all the merits which the advertising agents claim for them.
This sort of thing strikes one most in relation to television advertisements. Unfortunately, those of us in what is called the single channel area have only one television station which, for our sins, we can watch. We are bombarded every 12 or 14 minutes with the most appalling advertisements screamed out at us and repeated ad nauseam perhaps five or six times a night, if you are unfortunate enough to watch television for a whole night. The same stupid advertisement is bawled out at you.
I have in mind in particular a certain beverage which is alleged to get you over the after effects of 'flu. It is alleged not only to get the child who has the 'flu over its effects, but also to get the distraught mother who has to look after the child over the effects of having to look after the child. I am told by those who know something about these matters that the claims made for that product are totally without foundation and that, if you were to drink a glass of water into which a spoon of glucose or even castor sugar had been mixed, you would get just as much benefit as you would get if you were to drink this fairly expensive product which is pushed at the unfortunate public so constantly. The profits, of course, arising out of the sale of products such as this must be enormous. Otherwise they could not afford to carry on the advertising they do. Unless they got very substantial results from that advertising in the past, clearly they would not continue to carry it on to the same extent as they do at the moment.
In addition to that example, there is another rather incongruous one of two young ladies depicted in one of these advertisement films on television, one of whom is lying on the floor and partaking in the most strenuous exercises, panting, groaning, and obviously in great distress. Her companion is lolling back on a sofa or bed munching some form of biscuit. The biscuit muncher inquires during an interval in the activities of the young lady on the floor how much she has lost in the last week and she gasps out that she has lost 7½lbs. The biscuit muncher replies rather cockily that that is half a pound more than she lost by lying on her bed munching biscuits for the week which, of course, no doubt conveys a message to the public at large that munching this type of biscuit is of the same benefit to you as carrying out strenuous exercises on the floor for a week.
I do not know a great deal about the value of the ingredients of these biscuits but I think it is a most foolish advertisement. One would think that the reaction of most people would be to pooh-pooh the whole thing and say that nobody would be taken in by that sort of nonsense. The fact of the matter is that these are expensive advertisements. I think they cost up to a couple of hundred pounds a time to show, apart from the several thousand pounds it costs to make them.
These expensive advertisements would not appear continuously on national television unless they were codding somebody. Therefore, they must be codding somebody. The people who spend all this money would not spend it unless they were getting returns on it and unless they were making profits by selling these biscuits, or whatever they are, to guillible young ladies who think they benefit by losing weight. Apparently the more of them you eat the more weight you lose, which would strike me as contradictory but may not strike those at whom the advertisements are aimed as being contradictory.
While there is a great need to control all the various aspects of food and the consumption of food as set out at length in section 2(1), one of the areas in which the need is most obvious and most crying is the control of the advertising of food and in particular, the control of the advertising of what are now called health foods in this country and, I think, in other countries. The description may not be an accurate one but health food is the generic name by which they are generally known. Whether, in fact, they contribute to one's health is very much another question.
I have given only two examples of a large number of instances in which dishonest claims are made for some product which is of no great value in itself. Because an attitude is built up in the public mind by this continuous barrage of advertising, the sales of products which are of no special merit or value are enhanced, and the profits to the people who make them are considerably enhanced. I have no objection to their making profits provided they are not doing so at the expense of the public in the way which appears to be the case here. If the public ate or drank ordinary natural food, the benefit to their health would be likely to be greater than the benefit from these artificial synthetics which are thought up by people for the purpose of making profits for themselves.
A number of those who spoke on the last occasion, including the Minister for Industry and Commerce, think it is vitally necessary to have some control over the advertising of food generally and, in particular, the types of food I have been talking about. For that reason I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to accept this addition to the already long list of aspects of food control and food standards proposed to be covered by subsection (1) The need for the control of advertising is at least as great as the need for the control of the other various things mentioned.