The food and drink industry is to fight a proposal to ban radio and TV advertising of certain children's foods in the Irish Republic.
The proposal is contained in a new Broadcasting Bill published by communications minister Eamon Ryan, a prominent Green Party member and long-time critic of so-called junk food advertising.
The bill establishes a Broadcasting Authority of Ireland that will govern both state-owned and commercial radio and TV, and sets out its duties.
The authority would have the power to "prohibit in a broadcasting service a particular class of foods and beverages considered to be the subject of public concern in respect of children's health, in particular those which contain fat, trans-fatty acids, salt or sugar".
The bill makes no mention of a watershed beyond which advertising would be allowed, nor of how particular foods would be assessed and by whom.
According to Food and Drink Industry Ireland (FDII), which represents suppliers, the bill was causing serious concern as producers could be barred from advertising as a result of public opinion rather than robust science.
"Let's look at the content of advertising, rather than just saying 'let's ban all of it'," said FDII spokeswoman Louise Sullivan. "We know that steps can be taken to improve the way food and drink is marketed to children. A ban will put us out of kilter with Europe, where it is felt that co-regulation is the best approach."
The bill must pass through three stages, including both houses of the Irish Parliament. Sullivan said the food and drink industry was pushing to have the bill amended during this period.
Meanwhile, 17 of the largest food and drink companies in the Republic are funding a €400,000 advertising campaign to inform consumers about the calorie, sugar and fat content of products, using the GDA system of labelling.