Irish health minister Michael Martin has confirmed that he is “considering” the introduction of a special tax on fatty foods to tackle the Republic’s high levels of obesity, particularly among children.

Details of how the tax would be structured had yet to be worked out, he said, as well as the foods that would be affected and the levels of fat at which the tax would apply. But he pointed out that sugar levels in many soft drinks were “shockingly high”, destroying children’s teeth and creating health problems like diabetes.

He was “very concerned” about the Irish levels of obesity and diabetes and their impact on heart disease rates, which were among the highest in the EU. He cited a recent health and lifestyle survey that found 32% of Irish children were overweight and 10% obese.

Among adults, 12% of women and 14% of men were also shown to be obese.