If you went to watch a Green Bay Packers game in Wisconsin late last year, you would have seen a curious public advertisement. The grim reaper, resplendent in black and with scythe in hand. You might have thought it was some kind of warning against smoking, drink driving, drugs or firearms.

In fact, it warned of the dangers of… wait for it… cheese. That’s right, cheese. The billboard bore the copy, “Warning: Cheese Can Sack Your Health. Fat. Cholesterol. Sodium.”

A fortnight ago, if you drove through Albany in New York you would have seen a poster featuring a corpulent and dimpled female thigh alongside the slogan, ‘your thighs on cheese’. Another displayed a close up photo of a man’s belly poking out over his belt with the phrase ‘your abs on cheese’. It would be funny, if it wasn’t true.

The ads were sponsored by a non-profit group called Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). They’ve also written a letter to the Albany school board asking them to cut the amount of dairy products served in schools to “help minimise the risk for childhood obesity”. This is bad advertising based on bad science.

The fact is that consumers worldwide make a connection between dairy products, calcium content and bone health. Cheese is, in nutritional parlance, a “good source” of calcium and eight other essential nutrients.

Plus, thanks in large part to some crazy price deals largely funded indirectly by dairy farmers and directly by processors, the cost of cheese is attractive.

Science doesn’t support the demonisation of dairy. Tong et al (2011) systematically reviewed seven prospective studies and found that for every additional dairy serving consumers ate, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes fell by 6%. Cheese has its place on the ‘eat well’ plate and dairy generally looks like having something of a nutritional renaissance among the scientific community.

To equate, as the PCRM does, cheese to drink driving and tobacco is absurd. In moderation, cheese is a positive addition to a healthy diet. Why not demonise Cracker Jack, nachos, pretzels or Hershey bars instead?

From a marketing viewpoint, there is evidence that through these advertisements, some people will become more aware of their behaviour and conscious of a potential negative outcome. However, the correlation between cheese and corpulence isn’t causal. The overall diet needs to be looked at.

Indeed, there should be action - and plenty of it, on public health. The latest Health Survey for England (HSE) data shows us that nearly one in four adults, and more than one in 10 children aged two to 10 are obese.

Change4Life, the National Child Measurement Programme, regulations on marketing food to children, the Supermeals campaign, the public health Responsibility Deal - all, by and large, will have a positive impact on public health.

The fact is that cheese is calorie dense. My advice to the Americans is to read the nutrition labels and make smart choices. Use grated cheese where you can, and use a strong British Cheddar to give your dish flavour.