Dairy farmers sour-faced over healthy eating guide

Farmers were up in arms yesterday when the UK government's official guide on healthy eating saw a considerable reduction in recommendations of the amount of dairy products which should be consumed.

The UK government is telling people to have less dairy. Picture: TSPL/Robert Perry
The UK government is telling people to have less dairy. Picture: TSPL/Robert Perry

Coming only the day after it was announced that milk-based drinks would escape the soft drink sugar tax announced in the Budget, milk producers reacted angrily as the release of new national guidelines cut the amount of dairy products being recommended to only 8 per cent of the diet.

The changes – described in some quarters as a “kick in the teeth” for hard-pressed dairy farmers – were revealed when the Eatwell Guide, produced by Public Health England but which also applies to Scotland and Wales, was launched yesterday.

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However, Heather Peace, head of nutrition science and policy with Food Standards Scotland, last night said there was no intention of attacking any farming sector.

She said the new guide had been drawn up following recommendations produced by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition last July – and was aimed principally at reducing sugar intake and increasing that of fibre.

“When we try to change one element in the good eating equation it has implications for all food groups – and here we were trying to change two,” said Peace.

“There is certainly no intention to knock the dairy industry – the Eatwell Guide is simply the way we put scientific advice into layman’s terms.”

Dr Judith Bryans, chief executive of trade organisation Dairy UK, however, said the move went against evidence there was better understanding of the role milk and dairy products played in a healthy and balanced diet.

Ironically, the news also came on the same day the AHDB Dairy board agreed a £3.5 million marketing budget for the next three years, £1.8m more than had been initially budgeted.