The Broadcasting Association of Ireland (BAI) has launched a public consultation on how food and drink should be commercially promoted to children in the broadcast media (Ref: 1). As part of this consultation, the BAI proposes a method by which to define food and drink which should be subject to regulation. This proposed method classifies cheese unfavourably; therefore, if implemented, will restrict the marketing of cheese to children (< 18 years of age). The National Dairy Council is seeking an exemption for cheese from such regulation due to the following reasons:
Contribution to calcium
National surveys clearly highlight the prevalence of inadequate calcium intakes among Irish children and teenagers, with 42% of teenage girls and 23% of teenage boys (13-17 years) reported to have insufficient calcium intakes (Ref: 2). Corresponding figures for children (5-12 years) are 37% and 28%, respectively (Ref: 3). Considering the potential consequences of insufficient calcium intakes, specific efforts are required to reverse these trends. Milk and milk products are recognised for their contribution to calcium intakes. A portion of cheddar cheese provides 207mg calcium which equates to 26% of the Irish Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for 1-10 year olds and 17% of the Irish RDA for 11-17 year olds (Refs:4,5). Also, National surveys reported that cheeses specifically contribute 8% and 9% to the mean daily intake of calcium in the diet of Irish teenage boys and girls, respectively (Ref:6). Corresponding figures for Irish children are 6% and 6%, respectively (Ref: 7).
Overall nutritional value
In addition to being an important source of calcium, cheese also provides numerous other nutrients in the diet of Irish children and teenagers. In fact, cheddar cheese is considered a ‘source of’ 10 nutrients using criteria set out in EU regulation (Ref:8) (high source of protein, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, chloride and vitamins A and B12, and a source of riboflavin, folic acid and iodine). Furthermore, National surveys highlight actual contribution of cheeses to a range of vitamins and minerals in the diet of Irish children and teenagers (Click here to view Table 1: Contribution (%) of cheeses to the mean daily intakes of vitamins and minerals in Irish children and teenagers ).
The prevalence of overweight and obesity among Irish children and teenagers is of great concern. Obesity is a complex disorder with a number of factors contributing to its development. Unarguably, measures must be taken to address this issue. However, in relation to the proposed regulation, the relevant question to be addressed is whether cheese intake actually has a role in this relationship. Again, evidence from National surveys clearly illustrate that the prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased; while over the same time period average cheese consumption levels remained relatively unchanged (Click here to view Table 2: Comparison of changes in the prevalence of overweight/obesity and average cheese intake levels among Irish children and teenagers overtime ).
Protect the interest of children
Listed among the purposes of the Children’s Commercial Communications Code is ‘to offer protection for children from inappropriate and/or harmful advertising’. Therefore, it could be strongly argued that implementing a method which would restrict the advertising of cheese, a nutritious and staple food in the Irish diet, would be somewhat contradictory to the purpose of this Code, and even counterproductive to addressing many of the public health issues highlighted in the Consultation.
The general public is aware that, as part of a balanced diet, the Department of Health’s Food Pyramid recommends three portions of dairy per day (Ref:12). During the teenage years, it is advised to consume five servings per day in order to address the increased calcium requirement during this life-stage. Implementing a model which presents cheese unfavorably is not only contradictory to such recommendations, it will also cause confusion among the general public. Clear, consistent messages are essential to assist compliance with a healthy, balanced diet.
Dairy foods, including cheese, is a strong part of Irish heritage and tradition and, moreover, are considered valuable exports to the Irish economy. Restricting the advertising of such foods in Ireland is certainly not a positive message to international markets. Additionally, such restrictions could result in significant reputation damage which could possibly take years to reverse.
To ensure your views on this important matter are considered, please submit your response to the BAI by close of business on Friday 6th October 2011. Responses should be sent to email@example.com or posted to Sinéad Owens, Children’s Code Consultation, Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, 2-5 Warrington Place, Dublin 2.
Click here for References
Read the full BAI Children’s Commercial Communications Code here
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