BAI calls for restrictions on food advertising on kids' TV

Adverts for cheddar cheese, butter, margarine and mayonnaise could be banned during children’s programmes.

Draft rules to regulate the promotion of food and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) before 6pm have been proposed by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

Commercials for crisps, confectionery, sweetened drinks, and some brands of pizzas, breakfast cereals and sausages could also be banned during shows aimed at kids, like The Late Late Toy Show.

Celebrities, sports stars and characters from TV programmes and movies will also be stopped from promoting foods deemed to be bad based on their nutritional profile.

Elsewhere no more than one in four adverts can be for HFSS products.

Charlie Flanagan, Fine Gael TD for Laois/Offaly, clamed the proposal to curb cheese adverts was ludicrous and damaging to the booming dairy industry which employs 34,000 people.

He maintained dairy products and the calcium they contain play a crucial part in the diet of children and teenagers.

“Research shows that while obesity in children has broadly doubled over a 15-year period, cheese consumption has remained static,” he said.

“I fail to understand why the BAI would consider banning cheese advertising based on this, but allows adverts for Diet Coke, a product which is full of artificial sweeteners and has no dietary benefit whatsoever.”

Mr Flanagan feared the rule would also send out the wrong message around the world.

“Exports in this industry are worth €2.6bn to the Irish economy every year. The target is to double this in the next eight years,” he added.

“I am calling on the BAI to row back on this decision and consider the detrimental effects this will cause.”

However, food safety body safefood argued the measures do not go far enough for the protection of children’s health and should be extended to 9pm.

“Given the high numbers of children watching prime time television, children are still exposed and need protection after the ’traditional hours’ of children programming,” it said.

BAI revealed 226 submissions for and against the changes were received during the first consultation. They included members of the public, broadcasters, politicians, the health, diet and nutrition sectors and bodies like the Irish Farmrs’ Association and Irish Dairy Board.

A public consultation for the new draft children’s commercial communications code and general commercial communications code has also been launched. Submissions should be made by Thursday, May 31.

Bob Collins, BAI chairman, said the rules in the BAI’s draft codes have taken all of the submissions into consideration.

“Some respondents to our initial consultation wanted a complete ban on certain foods until 9pm in the evening, while others wanted exemptions to be applied to a range of foods that were considered to be of high economic importance to certain sectors of the economy,” he said.

“The draft codes strike a balance between these divergent views.

“Most importantly, the codes ensure that the BAI executes its legal responsibilities in terms of protecting the interests of children.

“In putting forward the draft codes, the BAI is not telling people what to eat, but is trying to support the creation of an environment in which more healthy food choices can be made.”

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