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We will be a nation of secret Cheddar junkies if we ban ads for cheese

WHEN I was in Junior Infants, concerned nuns made cheese sandwiches for me because I was pale and thin. Now I learn that cheese, a staple of the human diet since before recorded history, has incurred the disapproval of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

The BAI is planning to ban cheese ads (as opposed to cheesy ads) when children's programmes are on the telly.

How fortunate I am, then, that I did not actually like cheese back in school and used to hide the sandwiches when the nuns' backs were turned. Eventually the mountain of mouldy sandwiches was discovered and the nuns gave up their efforts to make me healthy.


Today I am grateful to the Obesity Police in the form of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland for taking a weight off my shoulders. For decades I have felt guilty about disappointing nuns who were, I thought, only doing their best and whom I can still remember pointing silently to the stash of cheese when it was discovered and shaking their heads in sorrow at me.

What I now know is that they were doing A Bad Thing. Otherwise why would the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland want to ban cheese ads during children's programmes? I realise I no longer need to feel guilty about those nuns. Instead I can add their attempts to feed me a fatty product to my list of grievances against the Catholic Church.

Needless to say this has thrown that cheese-pusher the National Dairy Council into a right tizzy. It has been bleating piteously about "nutrition" as if that had anything to do with it. It has even been producing statistics to show that cheese is not responsible for rises in obesity. Down with all that! As far as the BAI is concerned, cheese is in the same category as fizzy drinks, crisps and cake -- all sternly disapproved of by puritans everywhere.

It could go horribly wrong though. It is already known in health promotion that saying something is bad and dangerous may make it more appealing to people who like a touch of, well, the bad and the dangerous.

Right now, cheese has a boring image -- especially the 40 shades of cheddar which seem to be all we are capable of producing in Ireland. And whatever the BAI may say, I have never seen a bunch of kids heading straight for the cheese counter when they arrive into a shop. Nor have I ever seen a toddler throw a tantrum on the shop floor because his mother won't buy him cheese.

But what happens if you make cheese seem risky, exciting, edgy? Suddenly it will become a must-have and the child who is sent to school with a cheese sandwich will show it off to envious classmates as they gather around him. And when a suspicious teacher looms, the kids will want to know, "Miss, did you ever eat cheese?" Cue blushing denials as the teacher retreats.

If the BAI pushes this carry-on far enough, your local headshop might just install a cheese counter where everything from white cheddar to Danish Blue will be sold to kids who are just not equipped to handle it.


So unless it wants to turn the nation's children into an army of cheese junkies, the BAI would do well to forget its brilliant idea.

As for me, I am considering a compensation claim against the nuns for potentially destroying my life. Of course it was a long time ago and people back then thought things like cheese, butter and milk were good for you.

But that is no excuse for their actions in traumatising me by making me eat cheese. Okay, I didn't actually consume the cheese as such, but the psychological effect is the same and it explains many of the things that have gone wrong with my life.

I am consulting my lawyers.