It was a little-known UK data research company until it made world headlines after it emerged it harvested Facebook data for political clients’ ends, including Donald Trump’s election and the UK Brexit campaign.
Now the Irish Heart Foundation claims junk food firms are also guilty of using the same tactics to target kids, and they’ve been at it for years.
Its head of advocacy, Chris Macey, told the Oireachtas Children’s Committee: “We know junk food marketing is fuelling obesity, obesity is damaging children and the State is failing to protect children’s health.
“The only remedy, as far as we are concerned, is an outright ban on unhealthy food marketing to under-16s.”
Mr Macey said childhood obesity is the greatest threat to the health of young people today and implicated junk food producers as the key protagonists in the promotion of unhealthy eating.
He added: “If a small consultancy company virtually nobody had previously heard of potentially influenced a US presidential election and the Brexit referendum using data harvested via Facebook, imagine the extent to which junk food marketers can use digital platforms to manipulate children.
“Junk food marketing involves the world’s best marketing brains in the world’s biggest agencies targeting children, who are more susceptible to advertising, every day.”
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