Food industry called on to help tackle obesity epidemic

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 6th May 2008

The Australian Medical Association yesterday called on the food industry to take more responsibility in curbing Australia’s obesity epidemic.

AMA President, Dr Rosanna Capolingua, said governments should take firm action to encourage the food industry to adopt measures to promote healthy eating.

Releasing the AMA Position Statement on Obesity, Dr Capolingua said obesity was a whole-of-society problem and that we all needed to take responsible action, especially those who play a key role in the food choices people make.

Dr Capolingua today called on supermarkets to responsibly display and place products to encourage healthy purchases by shoppers.

“Supermarkets have a very important role to play in working towards a healthier nation,” she said.

“Supermarkets have a lot of influence over consumer purchases – price specials and promotions around lower sugar and lower fat foods would help consumers. Australians should not have to pay more at check out to live healthier lives.”

“As supermarkets have huge buying power, they have the ability to work with suppliers and manufacturers to deliver healthier food products to the public that are more attractive than unhealthy choices.”

The AMA also wants to see urban planning regulations ensure that new housing developments provide easy local access to retail outlets for fruit and vegetables.

“There is emerging evidence between how much fruit and vegetables people eat and how close they are to a grocery store or supermarket.

“Food manufacturers should also work towards portion-controlled packaging of energy-dense products and the gradual altering of existing products to reduce calorie density,” she said.

Australian Health Ministers recently agreed to make obesity a National Health Priority Area and develop a National Obesity Strategy through the National Preventative Health Taskforce.

Dr Capolingua welcomed that announcement but noted that what we now need is serious and concerted action to deal with this problem which costs the nation over $20 billion each year.

“The AMA challenges the Federal Government to set firm goals and targets in preventing and reducing obesity, especially in our children. We know that the commitment is there, now we need to see the Government getting involved – to see implementation of initiatives that will have impact,” Dr Capolingua said.

The AMA’s Position Statement on Obesity also includes calls for:

* Higher taxes, and therefore higher prices, for junk food and sugary soft drinks with the allocation of the tax income quarantined for public health initiatives.
* Government subsidies on healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables to ensure price affordability, particularly in remote areas;
* A simple and uniform ‘front of pack’ system of nutritional labelling for package food such as the ‘traffic light’ system to assist and influence consumer choice towards healthy products;
* The advertising of energy dense and nutrient poor food products to children completely prohibited.