What the BAI want to do is ban ads for foods which can contribute to obesity in children. There's no doubt we have an obesity crisis in this country but under the BAI's nutritional profiling model, cheese is classed in the same grouping as fast food burgers and chips, soft drinks and chocolate bars. This is because cheese frequently has high levels of saturated fats, and there's no doubt that it does - with the average commercial cheddar made up of about 40% fat, or more.
But as we know, cheese has a very clean slate of ingredients compared to processed foods and snacks which are at the heart of our obesity problems. Many in Ireland's food sector view the ban as something that could be both detrimental to our dairy industry and also to children's diets. With research showing that many Irish children and teenagers are deficient in calcium it seems a contradictory approach to class cheese as a "bad" element of a varied diet. Particularly when you compare of dairy produce to the empty calories that children and young people are getting from soft drinks and the super high fat foods that they eat outside the home.
The proposals are also potentially harmful to the international push we are giving Irish dairy products in huge grocery marketplaces like China. This is the view of Irish artisan cheese producers, the Irish Farmers Association and summed up pretty much here in the The National Dairy Council's view on the issue -
“Restricting the advertising of cheese in Ireland will directly undermine the development of the Irish cheese industry, an industry where a huge element growth is predicated in terms of exporting increased production of Irish cheese to international consumers. The positioning of cheese in this proposed regulation as, effectively, 'junk food' could create reputational issues which may take years to reverse.”
My piece on the issue from the Irish Independent is at the link below which fleshes out the subject.
If you want to submit your views to the BAI, you have until this Thursday 31st May to do so. Check out the link at the bottom of the page, and if cheese is your passion, let your opinions be heard.