Farm Ireland

Monday 19 February 2018

Reality needed on the value of cheese in diet

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

It's been a strange week in farming.

First, we had the vision of a scantily clad Rihanna prancing around a DUP councillor's grain field in Co Down.

Let's face it, this was as unlikely a scenario as a wacky science fiction scriptwriter could have divined.

However, it has almost been topped in the crazy stakes by suggestions from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) that the eyes of impressionable children should be shielded from the sight of cheese.

In a recently launched public consultation document from the BAI, it was proposed that adverts for a range of foods, including cheese, should be restricted where more than 50pc of the audience was under 18.

This issue was originally highlighted in this paper in a comment piece from the Town of Monaghan CEO, Vincent Gilhawley.

Since then, the controversy has really grown legs, with interested parties from all sides of the debate weighing in with their tuppence worth.

Now diets are one thing I feel a bit uneasy preaching on given the state of my own body mass index.

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As a colleague commented to me once after a nurse went through me for a shortcut during a particularly nasty health check: "Your weight is fine," he said, "it's just that you're a foot too short for it."

However, it seems a bit daft that cheese is looked on unfavourably by the nutritional profiling model used by the BAI's expert group and is lumped in with what are essentially junk foods.

The IFA has taken a hard line on this particular issue and it's difficult to blame the organisation. Aside from the commercial damage this move could do, there is the reputational impact it has already inflicted on cheese as a nutritious and wholesome food.

The National Dairy Council (NDC) has produced some interesting statistics regarding the diets of teenage boys and girls and positive impact of dairy products.

It points out that national surveys clearly highlighted the prevalence of inadequate calcium intakes among Irish children and teenagers, with 42pc of teenage girls and 23pc of teenage boys (13-17 years) reported to have insufficient calcium intakes. Corresponding figures for children (5-12 years) are 37pc and 28pc respectively, the NDC pointed out.

A portion of cheddar cheese (28g) provides 207mg of calcium, which equates to 26pc of the Irish recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for 1-10 year olds and 17pc of the Irish RDA for 11-17 year olds.

In addition, cheese is a high source of protein, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, chloride and vitamins A and B12, and a source of riboflavin, folic acid and iodine.

A helping of realism is badly wanted with this particular debate.

Indo Farming