Melbourne City Council launches Australian first for food retail

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 30th April 2009

A new pilot program launched by Melbourne City Council today is designed to help consumers to make healthy choices about what they eat.

The ‘green light, eat right’ program, running at QV Urban Market from May 2009, provides consumers with a colour coded indication of the nutritional value of food they are purchasing and encourages food outlets to improve healthy food practices.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said the program was an Australian first for food courts, and more than 50 per cent of the food outlets at the QV Urban Market had signed up to participate in the pilot.

“In Australia, more than half of the adult population is classified as either overweight or obese, and we need to be more creative about how we get the message through to consumers about healthy eating options,” he said.

“People often believe they are choosing healthy foods when in fact they are choosing foods that are highly processed and contain too much fat, salt or sugar,” the Lord Mayor claimed. “Choosing a balanced and healthy diet on the run doesn’t have to mean people have to give up the foods they enjoy, but we want to encourage consumers to think before they eat and help people to make healthier food choices.”

The basis of the scheme is a traffic light system that encourages consumers to eat green coded foods as often as possible, as they have the highest nutritional value. Amber foods like vegetarian pizza should be consumed in moderation and red foods such as chips and donuts eaten occasionally or as a treat.

People and Creative City Committee Chair Cr Jennifer Kanis applauded participating food outlets for taking a leadership role in providing their customers with an informed choice.

“Healthy eating is more important than ever as people try to keep up with a hectic schedule. I enourage city workers, students, residents and visitors to the QV Urban Market food court to support the program and make informed choices about what they eat,” she said. “We will be working with participating outlets throughout the program to ensure they are promoting healthy food options to their customers, as well as providing ongoing advice on what alterations can be made to their menus.”

The City of Melbourne engaged Nutrition Australia to develop and implement an innovative program for food outlets to help them improve the types of cooking oils used, swap full fat dairy products for low fat options, use more lean meats, and introduce more fruits and vegetables into their menus.

Dietitian and Project Manager Nerida Clarke said Nutrition Australia is excited about having pioneered a model that supports what we’ve learnt from our years of experience working with canteens in over 300 Victorian primary schools.

“Working with local government is key to creating a sustainable public health nutrition program. The green light, eat right program is a simple way of enabling consumers to make healthy choices when dining out,” Ms Clarke suggested.

Based on menu assessment undertaken by Nutrition Australia, the participating food outlets receive program accreditation and a certificate to award them either Gold, Silver or Bronze level.The pilot program follows the introduction of legislation in some areas of America requiring calorie counts on menus of chain restaurants, an idea that is on the agenda of the Preventative Health Taskforce in Australia.

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