No. If we introduce national legislation, it must be submitted to Brussels and must be approved there. For example, we were able to introduce labelling for country of origin in restaurants as a purely national regulation. However, when we tried to have the same regulations for lamb and chicken as we have for beef, this was rejected at European level, despite the draft legislation having been submitted by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The whole issue of food labelling legislation is under review and discussion. Probably within the next three or four months, we will see some light at the end of the tunnel as to what is agreed in Brussels.
I agree with the Deputy that some companies sail fairly close to the wind with respect to what is on the label. The actual size of the letters on labels and that type of issue is all regulated but it is an area that is sometimes open to abuse. We have gone to court with companies which have mislabelled products, for example, mislabelling farmed fish as wild fish, mislabelling Chinese honey as Irish and so on. Where we can or where we have open and shut cases, we do a certain amount in regard to prosecution and trying to get such products off the market and to ensure consumers' interests are protected.
On the issue of head shops, it is difficult to classify what is sold in these shops or to decide whether they are foods or even what they are. We carried out a very small survey and we are aware that some foods are being sold in such shops. While they are not so at present, all of these head shops should be registered as food business operators with the Health Service Executive and this must be considered. Some of the products on sale would be classified as foods and should be regulated. However, many of the products are not foods, or could possibly be classified as novelty foods. It is an area we are examining but I cannot give the committee any definitive answer with respect to what is and is not food. There are many products in head shops which would not be classified as foods.
With regard to education on healthy eating, in particular for parents, at the beginning of our existence we had a role with respect to public health aspects of diet. However, the legislation changed and the authority no longer has a role in the area of educating parents. We can offer advice on, say, the science behind such advice but we do not go out and actively promote healthy eating.
As an example of where the science is useful with respect to how to target healthy eating in schools, the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance has developed a food consumption database and, essentially, it goes out and examines what people of all different age groups are eating. When it examined what children from the ages of five to 12 were eating, it found that 94% of all calories consumed by those children came from the home and only 6% came from outside the home. Many recommendations had been made with respect to taking vending machines out of schools and examining what children were eating in schools and outside the home. The bottom line is that children in that age group get most of their calories at home and, if there is to be intervention, it is related to educating parents. The younger the age at which people can be educated, the better.
For example, we are not really part of the Food Dudes programme, although we have advised on it. This is a very good idea. The whole concept was to get children used to the taste of fresh fruit and vegetables. They would take this home and, once they had been introduced to healthy fruit and vegetables, they would put pressure on parents to continue with these. I was asked about the follow up to that programme. It is really down to the parents to take up the baton and run with it, and to introduce new tastes to these children and not shy away from eating fruit and vegetables.
There was reference to the survey on households and what people could afford. My colleague, Dr. Flynn, may wish to comment on that particular survey.