Cheese ads for children face ban

Fri, Mar 30, 2012, 01:00

Celebrities and sports stars, health and nutrition claims, cartoon characters and cheese will be banned from all food advertisements aimed at children, under a new draft code just published by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

The authority is inviting public observations on the draft Children’s Commercial Communications Code over the next two months. Once submissions have been taken into account and a final code written, it will be legislated for and is expected to come into force next January.

Its focus is on how foods high in fat, salt and/or sugar are advertised to children. It has been formulated by an expert group which also took account of submissions made in a first round of consultations last year.

Declan McLoughlin, policy officer with the authority said the group had adopted the nutrient profiling model developed by the UK Food Standards Authority for broadcasting regulation in Britain, to assess whether a food or drink had a high fat/sugar/salt content.

“We are not interested in telling people what they should and should not eat. Our interest is in the environment in which they make informed choices,” he said.

Cheese advertisements during children’s television should be banned - apart from for cottage cheese - as it was high in fat, “and saturated fat”.

Other foods that should not be advertised to children include potato crisps, including low fat; most breakfast cereals; biscuits and cakes; confectionary; most pizzas, sausages and burgers; mayonnaise; sweetened milkshakes and fruit juices; cola and fizzy drinks, except diet versions, and, butter and margarine.

The proposal to ban cheese ads to children was criticised by Food and Drink Industry Ireland, the Irish Dairy Industry Association and the Irish Farmers Association.

Kevin Kiersey, chairman of the the IFA’s national dairy committee said the approach lacked credibility and was more likely to damage than improve children's diets.

“Cheese provides a concentrated source of calcium - an element lacking from many children's and teenagers' diets - and many other valuable nutrients.”

Food and Drink Industry Ireland said the proposal was at odds with wider Government food policy. “Promoting our food and drinks industry abroad while undermining it at home sends mixed messages. This confused approach from Government must be resolved quickly,” said director Paul Kelly.

Claire McGee, executive of the the Irish Dairy Industry Association, said banning cheese advertising would “confuse” consumers and undermine government nutritional policy which was to encourage children and teenagers to eat “five portions of dairy every day”.

Mr McLoughlin said most other dairy products could be advertised to children, including milk - full- and low-fat, yoghurt and yoghurt drinks, fromage frais.

“There were no nutritional grounds for excluding cheese from the [nutrient profiling] model,” he said.

A copy of the draft code is available at bai.ie