AFGC welcomes new government campaign to tackle obesity

Posted by Isobel Drake on 17th October 2008

The Australian Food and Grocery Council, Australia’s peak food and grocery manufacturing industry association, has welcomed the Rudd Government’s launch of the Measure Up campaign to tackle obesity in the community.

AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell said that any additional tool to help educate the community about their health was always a welcome addition.

The $30 million campaign will involve print and TV advertising imploring people to measure their waists to see if they are at high risk of diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Health Minister Nicola Roxon remained coy about any other intiatives at the launch today, with more preventative health measures to be outlined next month. Traffic light labelling and a ban on junk food advertising to children were reportedly among the possible strategies being investigated.

Ms Carnell advised that the food manufacturing industry has long been working with governments and health professionals in an effort to assist the community to better understand issues associated with nutrition and diet, particularly in children. “In recent weeks the AFGC released the results of the joint industry and government funded Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, the most comprehensive study of its kind since 1995,” she noted. “The survey collected data on food intake, physical activity levels and the physical measurements of over 4000 children across Australia and was the first survey of its kind to involve both Government and the food industry.”

Ms Carnell said that, most importantly, the survey found that children’s diets were less than optimal, with children of all weights – normal, overweight, obese and undernourished – not consuming enough micronutrients and minerals. For example, over 80 per cent of girls aged 14 to 16 had a calcium deficiency, whilst fruit and vegetables intake levels were not adequate amongst most age groups.

“The study found that the issue did not seem to be whether children were eating too much food, but rather not the right food,” she reported. “Industry is concerned that some members of the community are putting too much emphasis on obesity rates rather than taking a holistic approach to issue of health and nutrition.”

Ms Carnell believes that more recognition needs to be given to the fact that people do not always have to be overweight or obese to be considered unhealthy. “If we are going to take the issue of preventative health seriously, then we must also take into account areas such as nutrient intake levels as these are the building blocks for a healthy future,” she said.

Ms Carnell points to the Daily Intake Guide as one of the intitiatives implemnted by the industry to provide consumers with more information. “The Australian food and beverage industry introduced Daily Intake Guide labelling in 2006 to make it easier for consumers to put together an appropriate, well-balanced diet for them and their family,” she said. “The Daily Intake Guide brings the information about what’s in a single serve of a product to the front of the pack, where it’s easier to read, and helps by placing this in the context of an individual’s overall dietary requirements.”

“In a recent survey almost three in five Australian consumers surveyed believe that the Daily Intake Guide provides the type of nutritional information needed to help decide whether to buy a product. Similarly pleasing were the findings that more than one in three Australian consumers surveyed had used the Daily Intake Guide to make a purchasing decision.”

Ms Carnell said that practical approaches such as Measure Up, the Children’s Survey, and Daily Intake Guide labelling were positive measures which would assist the community to better realise the value of a more balance approach to their diet and nutrition levels.

“The AFGC looks forward to continuing to work with the federal government on similar projects into the future in an effort to assist all Australians to lead healthier lives,” Ms Carnell concluded.