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Artisanal cheese Tube advert banned by TfL for promoting unhealthy diet

Cheesegeek founder and CEO Edward Hancock  (The Cheesegeek)
Cheesegeek founder and CEO Edward Hancock (The Cheesegeek)

TfL has banned adverts featuring an artisanal cheese company from the London transport network on the grounds they promote an unhealthy diet.

The posters put forward by business premises provider Workspace featured three panels, reading: “From crunching numbers to selling cheese online, it all happens at Workspace”.

The advert, seen by the Standard, featured an image of a hand typing at a calculator and another of some cheese, alongside the names of two Workspace tenants - an accountancy company, and London-based online cheese shop Cheesegeek.

But the adverts were rejected by TfL under its strict rules aimed at cutting obesity.

Cheesegeek founder and CEO Edward Hancock slammed the decision as “ridiculous” and said it wrongly categorises cheese “alongside genuine junk food”.

“[TfL] said it wasn’t going to conform to their advertising rules because of the high saturated fat contained within cheese,” Mr Hancock told the Standard.

Mr Hancock said he understood TfL’s desire to promote healthy eating, but believes its “binary” approach is “oversimplified”.

“[Adverts featuring food with] high saturated fat, high salt, or high sugar will be banned, because they believe that leads to childhood obesity,” he said.

“But you are allowed to advertise alcohol, soft drinks...it makes zero sense.

“It’s just really really frustrating, and it’s the sort of thing that makes us a bit of a laughing stock amongst the rest of the world,” he said, highlighting studies that have shown benefits of consuming cheese.

“You would not see anything like this in continental Europe.

“And the end result is people see things like this and they think therefore cheese must be bad for you and you should avoid it.”

TfL’s rules dictate an advert will not be approved if, among numerous other reasons, “it promotes (directly or indirectly) food or non-alcoholic drink which is high in fat, salt and/or sugar, according to the Nutrient Profiling Model managed by Public Health England.”

Responding to the Cheesegeek advertisement, a TfL spokesperson said: “The advert does not comply with our advertising policy, which uses the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) model to define foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt.

Cheesegeek founder and CEO Edward Hancock (The Cheesegeek)
Cheesegeek founder and CEO Edward Hancock (The Cheesegeek)

“The rest of the advertising campaign for Workspace was deemed compliant and four different creatives will be running on our network.”

Junk food advertising restrictions were introduced on TfL networks in 2019.

Research by the University of Sheffield and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine last year suggested the scheme had prevented almost 100,000 obesity cases and could save the NHS more than £200 million over the current population’s lifetime.

But TfL’s strict advertising policy has come under fire on multiple occasions.

In July, an advert for West End play Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding was removed from London’s transport network because it depicted a wedding cake.

Emma Best - deputy leader of the City Hall Conservatives - criticised the decision which she branded “totally bizarre”, and at odds with his goal of promoting culture in London.

But it was defended by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who said the poster breached Transport for London (TfL) rules, which seek to keep unhealthy foods from being displayed across the network.

In August posters for another West End musical - Operation Mincemeat - were banned due to concerns their design looked like graffiti and would encourage “wider acts of vandalism”.

Workspace has been approached by the Standard for comment.