Plan to ban cheese adverts 'absolutely crazy'


THE PROPOSAL to ban the advertising of most cheeses during children’s television programmes has been described as “absolutely crazy” and “mad” by members of the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

The committee has said it will make a “forceful” submission to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland objecting to the plans.

The authority announced a public consultation at the end of March on the regulation of advertising for foods high in fat, salt and sugar during children’s programmes. Its draft code, containing the proposal to ban certain cheeses, is open for submissions until the end of this month.

National Dairy Council interim chief executive Maeve Guthrie told the Oireachtas committee the authority’s proposal was based on a “fundamentally flawed” model.

The model used to categorise food as healthy or less healthy was several years old and had been criticised by independent organisations and experts.

“It could be argued that the model does not sufficiently acknowledge the role of calcium.”

The council’s nutrition manager, Dr Catherine Logan, said 37 per cent of Irish girls and 28 per cent of boys aged 5-12 years had an insufficient calcium intake. That rose to 42 per cent and 23 per cent for girls and boys aged 13-17 years.

Dr Logan said just 1 per cent of the total energy consumed by Irish children and teenagers came from saturated fat in cheese.

She said obesity rates had broadly doubled among young people in the past 15 years yet their consumption of cheese remained relatively static.

Ironically, the code would categorise diet cola as healthier than cheese, yet the drink had “little or no nutritional value”.

Ms Guthrie said the categorisation of cheese as less healthy would cause “huge confusion” in people’s minds. The Department of Health’s food pyramid advised three servings from the milk, cheese and yogurt food group a day as part of a balanced diet.

Fine Gael deputy Tom Barry said the proposal was “absolutely crazy”. He pointed to the risk of osteoporosis due to insufficient calcium and said it had to be avoided at all costs.

Mr Barry said the banning of cheese during children’s programmes would also “sabotage” the Irish dairy industry, which was world-leading for quality.

Chairman Andrew Doyle said the committee would make “a forceful and commonsense contribution” to the authority’s consultation. “We will shortly submit a concise report, pointing to the dangers in how cheese has been classified in the draft advertising codes in the BAI document.” A copy of the report would be forwarded to the Minister for Communications and the Minister for Agriculture.

Earlier the committee met Siún Ní Raghallaigh, chairwoman designate of the board of Irish language station TG4. She said the station had embraced web technology and its online player had streamed 2.8 million programmes last year.