IFA National Dairy Committee Chairman Kevin Kiersey today (Wed) said the proposals by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) to restrict the advertising of cheese on the same basis as ‘less healthy’ foods such as confectionery and sugary drinks were deeply flawed. While IFA is very much in favour of constructive action to counter the increased prevalence of obesity in children and teenagers, it must be evidence-based and not rely on a process tainted by a conflict of interest which puts into question its entire credibility.
“Recent comments by TDs and the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney show that the IFA information campaign is working. However, it is high time for the BAI to recognise that its insistence on restricting advertising of cheese not only to children, but in a general way (the recommendations from the BAI would restrict the amount of advertising time available to so-called ‘less healthy’ foods, including cheese, even when not targeted to children) is flawed, wrongheaded and not evidence-based,” Mr Kiersey said.
“The use of extensive nutrition data produced by the Irish Universities Nutritional Alliance, would have shown to the BAI’s expert group that cheese consumption by Irish children and teenagers has remained static for the past 20 years, at around 10grs per day, less than half the daily recommended portion. Over the same period, the incidence of overweight and obesity among the relevant age groups has doubled. The obvious conclusion is that cheese consumption plays no part in the increased incidence of obesity among Irish children – in fact, our children’s relatively low consumption of cheese is a contributory factor to proven calcium deficiencies in their diets,” he said.
“However, the BAI insisted on using a flawed and over simplistic UK model developed in 2004/05 for the UK Food Safety Authority, and using one of the authors of this model – Lynn Stockley and Associates – to review the consultation process and make recommendations. This has created a fundamental conflict of interest, and resulted in a very predictable rebuttal of all arguments questioning the use of the model to include cheese as ‘less healthy’ food,” he added.
“I urge Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte to take a closer interest in this issue, as it is threatening the credibility of an organisation, the BAI, which falls under his remit. I also urge Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to work on a prompt resolution of this issue to avoid the very serious reputational damage this could have for the Irish dairy industry,” he concluded