Industry attacks food ads ban for children’s TV

Food manufacturers have criticised a new code which bans television and radio advertising of foods with high fat, salt, and sugar content during children’s programmes.

Food and Drink Industry Ireland (FDII), an affiliate of employers’ group Ibec, has complained that the code, being introduced by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), is based on “flawed science”.

FDII director Paul Kelly predicted the BAI’s General and Children’s Commercial Communications Codes would have little impact on childhood obesity rates.

While the FDII welcomed the exemption of cheese products from the new rules, it claimed many other beneficial, nutritious foods would be banned from advertising to children.

The code, which will come into effect on Sept 2, will prohibit all television and radio adverts for high fat, salt, and sugar foods, including drinks, during children’s programmes. The code will also stipulate rules for the content of such ads broadcast at other times that are targeted at children.

They include a ban on the use of celebrities, sports stars, and programme characters, as well as a prohibition on health or nutrition claims and promotional offers. The code will also limit ads for such products to 25% of all advertising sold on a daily basis.

The BAI said advertisers would use a “nutrient profiling model“ to determine whether a food should be classified as high in fat, salt, or sugar.

Any products advertised during children’s programming or aimed at children will require a certificate to state they do not fall under that categorisation.

The BAI said it had accepted the recommendation from the Department of Health that cheese products should be exempted.

However, ads for cheese products must carry an onscreen message indicating the recommended maximum daily consumption limit for cheese. The exemption does not apply to products of which cheese is an ingredient, such as pizza.

BAI chief executive Michael O’Keeffe said the authority was satisfied that the correct balance had been achieved in designing the code after conducting one of the most extensive consultations in its history.

However, Mr Kelly of the FDII said the nutrition profiling model was copied and pasted from a UK version without taking into consideration “valuable Irish research on the subject”.

The FDII claims many dairy and cereal products are being classified as unhealthy under the new codes, despite being important to the diets of children.

While Mr Kelly expressed disappointment with the BAI’s decision to press ahead with the code, he stressed that advertisers would adhere to the new rules.

Meanwhile, the Irish Farmers’ Association welcomed the exemption granted to cheese produces, saying it represented a victory for common sense.

“The value of dairy and cheese in children’s diets is well documented and both the Food Standards Authority of Ireland and the Department of Health recommend 3-5 portions of dairy products a day for children and teenagers,” said spokesman Kevin Kiersey.

He claimed research had shown no link between the incidence of overweight children in Ireland and cheese consumption.

The Irish Heart Foundation expressed concern the code only extends the ban on advertising foods like chips, crisps, confectionery, biscuits, and sweetened drinks up to 6pm, not 9pm.

It claimed large numbers of children would remain exposed to ads for unhealthy foods.

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