Belfast Telegraph

New ad rules 'won't stop obesity'

New rules banning the advertising of unhealthy and fatty foods during children's programmes will have little impact on childhood obesity, it has been claimed.

As the Irish Heart Foundation condemned the rules for not going far enough to protect children, the Food and Drink Industry Ireland (FDII) said they were based on a flawed science.

FDII director Paul Kelly said while he welcomed a decision to exempt cheese from a string of blacklisted foods, the UK-style model used to determine the nutritious value of some products unfairly deemed them unhealthy.

He said: "The UK system is unscientific, out-of-date and based on the concept of a 100g measure rather than on the actual amount people eat. This means that foods such as dairy and cereal products, which are vitally important to Irish children's diets, are classified as unhealthy."

The new rules, published by the Broadcasting Authority Ireland (BAI), will come into force on September 2. Ads for crisps, fizzy drinks, sweets, pizzas and breakfast cereals are among those to be banned before 6pm in a bid to tackle childhood obesity rates.

Original controversial plans to include cheese among the blacklisted foods were scrapped late last year after the Department of Health intervened and highlighted its health benefits. While cheese adverts will now be permitted, they will include an on-screen message advising a recommended maximum daily allowance.

Mr Kelly added that while advertising officials should have based their food classification model on more scientific Irish research, he welcomed the BAI's decision to exempt cheese from the new rules.

The Irish Heart Foundation said the advertising ban on foods with high fat, salt and sugar content should be extended by a further three hours - until 9pm.

Head of health promotion Maureen Mulvihill said the charity was "extremely disappointed" by the new rules, accusing the BAI of putting commercial interests ahead of children's health. She said the most popular time for children to watch TV is between 6pm and 9pm, so they will still be exposed to the adverts.

Ms Mulvihill said: "Ireland had an opportunity to learn from the UK example, which did not go far enough with a ban until 7pm."

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