Cheese in a pickle after junk ruling

STEVE DOWNES The label “junk food” conjures up images of chips, crisps, burgers, chocolate and turkey twizzlers. But now a new collection of foods can be added to the list of menacing munches that could turn us all into bulging Britons.

STEVE DOWNES

The label “junk food” conjures up images of chips, crisps, burgers, chocolate and turkey twizzlers.

But now a new collection of foods can be added to the list of menacing munches that could turn us all into bulging Britons.

Among the latest to be outlawed by the nutrition nannies are pistachio nuts, raisins, bran flakes, Marmite - and cheese.

The apparently innocuous foods are on a hit-list of products that will be banned from TV adverts during children's programmes later this month.

Last night the news that the noble cheese will be banned as part of the government drive to crack down on junk food adverts aimed at kids made people's blood curdle in East Anglia.

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George Harcourt, Norfolk chairman of the National Farmers' Union (NFU), said: “To discriminate against cheese is sacrilege.

“I have a son who's a cheese addict. We have a family saying that 'a day without cheese is a day wasted'. It's a healthy food.”

Ellie Betts, who produces Norfolk Dapple among other cheeses at Ferndale Norfolk Farmhouse Cheeses at Little Barningham, near Cromer, said: “I think it's very funny. Real cheese is good for your bones, so it shouldn't be called junk food. Stuff like cheese strings or Dairylea slices are different.

“Eating cheese is a good habit for children to get into.”

Anthony Gibson, NFU national director of communications, said the ban was “dietary nannying gone mad”.

“To suggest there is anything inherently harmful about cheese is absurd. Any wounds inflicted by our own authorities we can very well do without. It is not going to do anything to encourage the sales of cheese.”

The new regulations, being introduced this month by television regulator Ofcom, will ban broadcasters from advertising cheese during children's TV programmes, or shows with a large proportion of child viewers.

They are part of a Government clampdown on junk food TV adverts and aimed at reducing the exposure of children to food high in fat, salt and sugar.

The ban comes in the wake of evidence that television commercials have an indirect influence on what children eat, and are contributing to obesity in the young.

The Food Standards Agency used a nutrient profiling model to distinguish junk food from healthy food.

And the model officially labelled cheese as more unhealthy than sugary cereals, full fat crisps and cheeseburgers.

The model assessed the fat, sugar and salt content in a 100g or 100ml serving of food or drink.

But the British Cheese Board said the typical portion size of cheese was 30 to 40g - not the 100g used in the FSA model. Most cheese would be exempt from the ban if a typical sized portion was used in the model, said the Board.

Mary Quicke, who runs the family firm Quickes Cheese in mid-Devon, producing hand-made cheddar, described the rules as an “absurd anomaly” which left her “speechless”.

Other foods caught in the “junk food” ban include Jaffa cakes, takeaway chicken nuggets, sausages, bacon rashers, pizza, hamburgers and chocolate.

Foods which can be advertised include currant buns, frozen oven chips, chocolate flavoured milk and lasagne ready meals.