No need for cheese to be banned

Unprocessed cheese is a nutritious product if eaten in moderation, and the NDC believes cheese should be banned under the BAI's new draft code on children's commercials
Unprocessed cheese is a nutritious product if eaten in moderation, and the NDC believes cheese should be banned under the BAI's new draft code on children's commercials

While it is positive that the government is tackling the effects of advertising on children, it should be remembered that dairy products are nutritious if consumed in moderation



17 April 2012

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Common sense seems to be the main ingredient lacking in the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s (BAI) draft code that was announced this month. The code is responsible for the messaging and portrayal of food and drink to those aged under 18 and covers all commercial communications aimed at children including advertising, sponsorship and product placement.
While it is evident that advertising to impressionable young minds needs to be controlled, there also needs to be some real perspective added into the mix. 

Placing dairy products in the same bracket as soft drinks is simply sending out the wrong message to children and parents alike. If cheese is considered an unhealthy product because of its fat content, then surely products like nuts, avocado and olive oil should also be banned. 
The problem is that the proposals from the BAI are completely contradictory when compared with the government’s dietary guidelines. The food pyramid issued by the Department of Health recommends three servings from the ‘milk, cheese and yogurt’ food group a day for children and it states that the need for calcium increases between the ages of 11-17 years, so teenagers should consume five servings from this group per day. 
Unprocessed cheese is a nutritional product if consumed in moderation. When cheese is added to convenience foods like pizza it can become a highly calorific snack but eating it in moderation is beneficial to children and cannot be compared to eating sugary snacks in moderation.
A recent survey undertaken by The National Dairy Council (NDC) shows that approximately 30% of Irish children aged between five and 12 years have insufficient calcium intakes. The NDC has stated that Irish children’s consumption of cheese remained relatively static over the past 15 years yet during the same time obesity rates doubled.
It is positive that the government is trying to diminish the effects of advertising to children and many of the recommendations such as curtailing the use of celebrities and sports stars in the advertising of certain products is to be applauded. Advertisers realise the effectiveness of pester power and have played on it for generations so there needs to be some guidelines in place to counter this practice. While adults have the wherewithal to decipher what is fact and what is persuasion when it comes to advertising, children generally take advertisements at face value so it is the state’s responsibility to protect them by controlling the information they consume on Irish television. 
However the proposal to ban cheese as part of this draft code is not the way to go. Irish dairy exports were valued at €2.66bn in 2011. It is one of the few sectors that has shown strong growth over the last number of years. If this draft code was to be accepted, it would send mixed messages to consumers and possibly even threaten the reputation of Ireland’s dairy industry abroad. This is something we really can’t afford to let happen. 
Fionnuala Carolan


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