Ban on junk food continues amid concerns about additives

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 22nd May 2008

The South Australian Government’s program to help rid school canteens of junk food has come under fire from the Liberal Opposition due to concerns about food additives.

The ‘Rite-Bite’ campaign initiated by the Labor Party is designed to reduce fat, sugar and salt content in school canteens across South Australia, but the lack of policing of preservatives and additives worries the opposition.

Shadow Education Minister, David Pisoni, has now called for an investigation into food additives that may impact on the health of children.”Rite Bite guidelines have led many food suppliers to reduce salt, fat and sugar to ensure their products could be sold in school canteens,” Mr Pisoni said. “But the Education Minister has ignored a host of artificial colours, preservatives, flavours and flavour enhancers which are just as bad for children.”

“Many of these additives have been linked to asthma, behavioural problems, and learning difficulties and are banned in Europe, the US and Asia,” Mr Pisoni added. “A review of additives in school foods is urgently needed so parents can feel confident that what is being fed to their children is not harmful.”

However, Jane Lomax-Smith, Minister for Education, claims the opposition is against offering healthy food to children and determined to undermine the $1.55 million ‘Rite-Bite’ program. “The reality is that our strategy promotes the consumption of fresh, natural and healthy foods with less preservatives and less fat, sugar and salt,” she said. “I know the Opposition have wanted us to go back to the bad old days of high-fat donuts, pies and pasties but that’s not our policy. We want fresh, natural and healthy food in our canteens.”

“The food products the Liberals have criticised are very common ones that are present in many family homes and supermarkets,” Dr Lomax-Smith claimed. “However, if the Liberals have a serious concern about food additive safety, they should take it up with Food Standards Australia which assesses the safety of additives before they can be used.”

Dr Lomax-Smith also flagged future initiatives by the State Government to enhance the healthy options provided to consumers. “The ban on the junk food in school canteens is just the start of our State’s healthy food revolution and we are gradually working through all aspects of healthy food promotion,” she added. “We have held industry briefings to encourage food suppliers to get on board and help us by reducing the additives and sugars, fats and salts they put in their foods.”

The South Australian Government crackdown on junk food comes amid greater Federal Government and public interest in the obesity epidemic. Already, junk food advertising has come under pressure and manufacturers are beginning to enhance their food product ranges to ensure they are not caught out by the shift in consumer preferences toward healthier food.