The HSE's Clinical Lead for Obesity has said stricter legislation is needed in relation to the sale of sweets to counteract the impact of messaging on children.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Professor Donal O'Shea said that when it cannot be done by countering the message, a legislative approach needs to be looked at.

"I think you do have to look at plain packaging that's been shown in other countries to reduce consumption," he said.

Prof O'Shea said boxes of sweets are "unashamedly front and centre" when you walk into the store, and at the checkouts.

He said the issue of product placement also needs to be looked at, as well as measures similar to those in the Alcohol Bill, where there are no points for purchase or an extra bottle if you buy five.

"At the moment, our children are getting more than 20% of their daily energy intake from high fat, high salt, high sugar treat food," Prof O’Shea said.

"That's simply too much."

Prof O'Shea said the food industry has created an environment where the unhealthy choice is the default, and while there is a sector of the food industry that is very health aware, 90% of the industry is targeting the high fat, high salt, high sugar, low price.

"And if you get children hooked young to frequent treats, the brain becomes habituated to that and wants more," he said.

Prof O'Shea said there is a problem with obesity in children, as well as with children who are overweight.

He said the €5m HSE Safe Food Start campaign is a positive step, but he likened it to a 'David and Goliath' scenario when it comes to the food industry and the repeated messaging and marketing they can support.