Concerns over plan to restrict advertising of cheese to children

Thu, Jan 26, 2012, 00:00

THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture has raised concerns with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) about a proposal to restrict the advertising of cheese to children on television.

In 2009 the BAI commissioned a consultation document on the advertisement of food and drink products for children.

The report recommended that Ireland adopt the “nutritional profiling” model used by the UK, which includes a restriction on cheese.

The document stated that cheese should not be exempt, as it is high in saturated fat and salt. While noting that cheese was a concentrated source of calcium and other nutrients, it said advice from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) shows that consumers should focus on low-fat milk and yoghurts rather than cheese in order to obtain daily calcium from their diet.

The concerns raised by the department puts it at odds with the findings of the Department of Health-backed report.

Three of the five non-BAI members of the expert working group were from the Department of Health or HSE, with the remaining two from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and Safefood. The remaining three members are BAI executives.

The BAI is expected to publish a draft set of rules by April, following the consultation period.

The proposal to restrict the advertising of cheese has been criticised by farming representative groups, the National Dairy Council, and business groups such as Food and Drinks Industry Ireland, the Ibec body which represents the food and drink sector.

The Irish Farmers’ Association criticised the classification system cited in the report, which classifies cheddar cheese in the same bracket as french fries, biscuits, cakes, and pizzas, and deems it “less healthy” than diet coke.

“To argue that cheese is somehow less healthy than diet cola is based on poor methodology and flawed analyses,” the IFA said.

The Irish dairy industry is expected to grow significantly over the next 10 years, particularly after milk quotas are abolished in 2015.

The development of new cheese products is seen as a central strand of the development of the dairy industry.