Obesity is a major public health challenge, particularly in regard to diabetes and cardio vascular disease, and has been exacerbated as a result of our changing social, economic and physical environment and by a dramatic reduction in physical activity, and changing dietary patterns.
My colleague Minister Reilly set up a Special Action Group on Obesity (SAGO), comprising representatives from his Department, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Department of Education and Skills, the Health Service Executive, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and Safefood. The Group has focused on a range of measures including calorie posting in restaurants, a possible tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, nutritional labelling, marketing of food and drink to children, the supply of healthy food products in vending machines, detection and treatment of obesity and healthy eating guidelines. SAGO recommended a Health Impact Assessment on the possible introduction of a tax on sugar sweetened drinks and the Department of Health established a Steering Group in 2012 to oversee such an Assessment. In this context the industry has made representations to me in relation to their willingness to proactively address the issue and I have made these known to the Department of Health.