The Food Safety Authority Ireland (FSAI) has expressed it disappointment in a decision by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s (BAI) not to reassess cheese’s status as ‘unsuitable’ for advertising during children’s TV.
The comments come just days before the end of a consultation on a draft amendment to the Children’s and General Commercial Communication Codes, which details the rules for promotion of food and drink that are high in fat, salt and sugar on Irish television and radio.
The FSAI recently urged the BAI to amend the codes and allow the promotion of low fat cheeses on TV and radio in an effort to boost calcium intake in pubescent children.
Despite the FSAI efforts, no amendments were made to the cheese rule in the draft.
BAI is under fire from figures within the dairy industry for its policy.
“There is nothing more we can say at the moment except we don’t agree with their decision - it isn’t even robustly scientific,” FSAI chief specialist on public health and nutrition Dr Mary Flynn told DairyReporter.com.
“Cheese is a very valuable food. It’s a preventer of osteoporosis and a good source of calcium. It just doesn’t make sense to cut it all out. Looking at high fat cheeses it makes sense but it doesn’t otherwise.”
“The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland really missed the boat on these calcium high, low fat cheeses,” said Flynn.
Child calcium intake
According to Flynn, these cheese-related amendments to the code are vital to ensure children consume their required five portions of dairy each day.
The Authority recommends that children between the ages of nine and 13 meet this requirement to ensure they reach their recommended daily calcium intake.
According to Flynn, the current broadcasting code could restrict the intake of calcium through dairy products to milk and yogurt, which would require the consumption of large amounts of these products, she added.
“We have been finding it difficult to get five dairy servings into nine to 13 year olds,” said Flynn.
“If we rely on milk to meet the five portion requirement, these children need to be drinking 1000ml of milk day-in-day-out, or eating 750ml of yogurt.”
“We began to wonder about the wisdom of cutting cheese out of this group.”
The FSAI has since found that by replacing two glasses of milk with two portions of cheese, children will consume the same amount of calcium and less fat.
“We looked at the contents of fat, slat, calcium and we found that at least a few of the products high in calcium would pass, including low fat cheddar, Cheesestrings, and light cheese triangles.”
The BAI adopted the UK Nutrient Profiling (NP) Model in 2009 in an effort to implement immediate regulations.
“The UK model meant we could do something immediately. We recommended it initially that because it offers immediate implementation,” said Flynn, who was part of a panel that decided on the UK model approval.
“But even then we felt that cheese was one area that needed to be looked at. We did highlight cheese as an issue. That was in 2009. We expected a consultation in 2010, but that didn’t come until September 2011.”
During this time, FSAI discovered that an amended version of the UK model had been developed by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), which allowed for the assessment of cheese with calcium content greater than 320mg per 100g of cheese.
“We put this to the Broadcasting Authority Ireland, but they decided to use the unadjusted model,” she added.