The dairy industry has lambasted an “ill-conceived” government health drive that demonises cheese consumption.

Cross-sector body Dairy UK is setting up a working group to lobby the government on new “anti-cheese” labelling and TV advertising regulations that are damaging the public’s perception of cheese and hitting consumption.

The move was announced at the organisation’s first Cheese Summit this week (1 May) by its director general Jim Begg.

Mr Begg said the group’s aim would be to build up a strong case to have the restrictions relaxed when the Food Standards Agency reviewed its nutrient profiling model in 12-18 months.

‘Health benefits outweigh fat content’

Under the FSA’s  new “traffic light” labelling system, cheese receives a “red light” effectively lumping it with processed junk food and fizzy drinks.

This was despite strong evidence that the health benefits of cheese largely outweighed its fat and salt content, said nutritionist Judith Bryans, director of the Dairy Council.

Cheese was also rarely consumed in the 100g portion sizes that the FSA used as a base for its model, added Dr Bryans.

Only 2% of the respondents to a questionnaire filled in by the 100 conference delegates said the government supported the cheese industry, while 52% claimed it was actively anti-cheese.

Following FSA guidelines

Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom’s ruling that cheese could not be advertised during children’s TV programmes was also slammed.

An Ofcom statement to Dairy UK said, however, it had not “singled out cheese and cheese products” but had been following FSA guidelines.

David Curry, Dairy UK chairman, said: “Government agencies simply do not seem prepared to accept that cheese has well-established nutritional benefits. The idea that cheese is somehow a junk food is not only laughable but deeply damaging as we position British cheeses alongside the traditionally strong brands from the continent.”

  • “Without a central coordinated approach to food education the government allows for “renegade agencies” to dictate policy without portfolio and send messages which are ill conceived and of potentially devastating consequences.”
  • “Positioning cheese as a “non-healthy” food for children is detrimental to the image of cheese, particularly amongst children. In other countries, particularly the Far East, children are encouraged to eat cheese for their calcium intake and this is widely promoted.”
  • “The new FSA model shows a lack of understanding.”“If the government wants to give the impression that  it is supportive of the British cheese industry it has to go with the fact that cheese is the best protein rich food simply eaten.