Mark Allen, chairman of the industry association, told attendees at a reception held at the UK parliament this week, that the potential health benefits of calcium and proteins within cheeses were being neglected by regulators, leading to potential detrimental impacts across the sector.
Allen singled out the UK-based independent broadcast regulator OFCOM for criticism over its position on cheese advertising to children, which he claimed was not in line with the public’s view of the role of cheeses in diet.
“OFCOM has effectively prohibited the advertising of cheese to children,” he stated. “This cannot be right, a balanced approach in these matters is appropriate”.
In line with ongoing debates across Europe over the idea of nutrient profiling, defined as the science by which foods are ranked according to their nutritional composition, manufacturers of dairy-based products are coming under pressure to offset obesity fears.
Certain dairy-based products have also been linked to having high-levels of saturated fat that can be detrimental to health, with health groups and charities maintaining that balanced diets remains the best way to ensure healthier eating.
The industry has nonetheless stressed concerns at the inclusion of some milk, yoghurts and cheese goods under the definition of 'junk food' under nutrient profiling due to presence of natural fats.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, dairy groups are keen to play up the additional nutrition benefits of cheeses, which they say contain a number of proteins and other nutrients required in a balanced diet.
Cheese fight back
Speaking as part of a reception of the All Parliamentary Group on Cheese, Allen called on the industry to fight back over the ad restrictions by playing up the perceived benefits of some cheese products like higher calcium and protein contents.
Aside from consumer health, Dairy UK also expressed its wider concerns over the wellbeing of the global cheese industry regarding fears about the long-term impacts of similar restrictions.
In the UK Alone, Allen claimed that a third of milk produced in the country now was used in cheese manufacture, a strong increase from just a quarter in 2000, he added.
“We should not underestimate cheese’s impact on the global dairy agenda,” allen stated. “It is a major source of the expansion we are seeing today and will see in the future.”
Amidst tightening controls on the use of health claims for food and beverage products, Dairy UK said it will continue to work closely with both government and the country’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) to outline potential nutrition benefits of its products.
Saturated fat fears
Saturated fat consists of triglycerides containing only saturated fatty acids - that is, fully saturated with hydrogen atoms. Saturated fat tends to be more solid at room temperature, and a diet high in saturated fat has been repeatedly linked to an increased risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Foods that are high in saturated fat include meat, hard cheese, butter, cream, pastry and cakes.
According to the FSA, UK consumers eat about 20 per cent more saturated fat than they should. It says that sticking to the recommendations could help prevent as many as 3,500 deaths in the country each year as a result of lifestyle-related diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.