Health on the agenda at food and grocery conference

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 15th May 2009

The issue of preventative health was a key topic of discussion on day one of the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s Highlands Senior Executive Forum 2009*, currently taking place at the Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove in Queensland.

Melanie Leech, Director General of the UK Food and Drink Federation (FDF) – which represents the UK’s food and beverage manufacturers, told delegates how industry and Government were working together in the UK toward improving the health of the nation.

“Health is an increasingly important issue for people in the UK and so it’s important that the Government and the food and drink industry work together to help tackle growing problems like obesity,” she said.

“Our industry works with Government closely on a range of initiatives, and perhaps the most notable one at the moment is the Change4Life campaign, which several of FDF’s members are involved in. This campaign is a country-wide movement encouraging people to eat more healthily and be more active, and is aimed initially at parents of families with young children through a wide range of initiatives – from broadcast advertising to printed leaflets and an interactive website, and working with a wide range of partners from multi-national companies to healthcare practitioners and schools, and grassroots local organisations such as clubs and charities.”

“The food and drink industry is also working to improve the health of people in the UK by offering a wide range of portion sizes; providing clearer nutrition labelling on both the front and back of packs; encouraging companies to implement workplace wellbeing schemes; and through voluntary principles on marketing and promotions of certain foods to children,” Ms Leech advised.

The FDF believe a long-term focus is critical and by working with all stakeholders they can make a real difference. Already, reformulation efforts have begun to add up and provide a guide to the potential of the Australian food and grocery sector to further push its nutritional credentials.

“So far, industry’s efforts have led to the reformulation of £15bn worth of food products to contain less salt, fat or sugar; and the provision of £11.5bn worth of new products which are ‘lower in’ versions of foods. Research has also shown that Britons bought 3,794 tonnes less salt in five food categories between September 2006 and September 2008, and that intake of trans fats in the UK is just 1% of the total energy intake. This is lower than the Government’s recommended maximum intake of 2%,” Ms Leech concluded.

* Highlands 2009 is running Wed-Fri this week at the Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove in Queensland.