Government urges Australia’s food industry to help tackle obesity

Posted by Janice Wong on 2nd June 2009

Australia’s food industry has been warned to make concrete changes in the reformulation of food products, and if fails, the Federal Government should consider regulations. The Standing Committee on Health and Ageing yesterday released its report on the inquiry into obesity in Australia, titled “Weighing it up: Obesity in Australia”, urging food manufacturers to do more to make a positive contribution to mitigate the high levels of overweight and obesity in Australia.

Out of the 20 recommendations made by the Committee in order to help counter the growing numbers of overweight and obese people in Australia, two of these were directed specifically at the food industry.

The first urged the food industry and government to develop guidelines to reformulate food – by lowering sugar, salt and fats in processed food, and develop consistent nutritional advice on food labels. The industry was commended for initiatives to reformulate products over the past five years to include more low-kilojoule, low-fat, low-sugar, and low-salt products on supermarket shelves, but was criticised on the levels of sugar and salt in processed food products which are still too high.

Donut Boy

The Heart Foundation referred to the example of the United Kingdom saying that their reformulation efforts have achieved marked benefits in a variety of foods including breakfast cereals, potato chips and tinned products like soups.

“The UK has also looked into this, and they are seeing some fantastic results. They have seen levels of salt come down from 9.5 to 8.6 grams within three years. That is quite a large achievement from a population level in a very short period of time” said Ms Anderson, spokesperson of Heart Foundation.

The second recommendation made, was to develop a partnership between government, industry and relevant stakeholders to address the issues raised regarding the food industry, and implement a Healthy Food Code of Good Practice tailored to Australian conditions.

AWASH is running a campaign titled “Drop the Salt” which aims to decrease the levels of salt in processed foods by 25 percent over the next five years in Australia, which has had support from key food industry members, including Coles and Smiths Snackfood Company, who have committed to reduce salt in their products in line with the AWASH strategy.

The report also discussed other reasons contributing to obesity, such as increased portion sizes, and the high prices of fresh, healthy food, which impacts people’s food choices. The industry is now urged to make healthy food cheaper to allow greater and more equitable access.