Preventative Health Taskforce to shake up food and beverage regulation

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 1st September 2009

The future for health policy in Australia has been outlined today, with plans to hike cigarette prices, ban the sponsorship of sport for alcohol companies and develop a National Food and Nutrition Network.

The long awaited release of the report from the taskforce – which was set up in April 2008 – is set to shake up the regulatory environment for food and beverage manufacturers. Among the changes is a controversial plan to not allow alcohol companies to sponsor sporting or cultural events in the country – a move which has caused concern for sporting bodies in the country. There is also the recommendation to phase out alcohol advertising from live sport broadcasts as the taskforce clearly saw a need to rid the country of the link between alcohol and sport.

Donut Boy

The issue of obesity was met with a number of potential remedies, with one of the more contentious being the prospect of higher taxes on unhealthy food. The report suggests the Federal Government review current taxation systems and economic policy to promote the consumption of healthy foods.

Other recommendations included the development of a Health Food Compact between industry and government to drive healthy food production and the introduction of regulation for front-of-pack labelling and menu labelling.

The pledge made by 16 large manufacturers to not advertise junk food to children was welcomed, with the taskforce recommending the phase out of junk food advertising before 9 p.m. on free-to-air and Pay TV and a phase out of “premium offers, toys, competitions and the use of promotional characters, including celebrities and cartoon characters,” used to market food to kids. The report said this could be done in four years, with industry self-regulation monitored over that time to ensure that if any “shortfalls” are discovered they can be addressed.

When it came to alcohol, the Preventative Health Taskforce said that along with a reduction in promotional activity, the Federal Government should look into the prospect of introducing a minimum price for alcohol as part of a bid to reduce over consumption through a targeted tax regime.

Tackling Obesity in Ten Steps –

Excerpts from Australia:The Healthiest Country by 2020:

1. Drive environmental changes throughout the community to increase levels of physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour

2. Drive change within the food supply to increase the availability and demand for healthier food products, and decrease the availability and demand for unhealthy food products
– Develop and implement a comprehensive National Food and Nutrition Framework
– Commission a review of economic policies and taxation systems, and develop methods for using taxation, grants, pricing, incentives and/or subsidies to promote production, access to and consumption of healthier foods
– Establish a Healthy Food Compact between governments, industry and non-government to drive change within food supply; develop voluntary targets
– Work with industry, health and consumer groups to introduce food labelling on front of pack and menus to support healthier food choices with easy to understand information on energy, sugar, fat, saturated fats, salt and trans fats, and a standard serve/portion size within three years.

3. Embed physical activity and healthy eating in everyday life

4. Encourage people to improve their levels of physical activity and healthy eating through comprehensive and effective social marketing

5. Reduce exposure of children and others to marketing, advertising, promotion and ponsorship of energy-dense nutrient-poor foods and beverages
– Developing and adopting an appropriate set of definitions and criteria for determining Energy-Dense Nutrient-Poor food and beverages
– Monitoring and evaluating the impact of voluntary self-regulation in reducing children’s exposure to unhealthy food advertising
– Identifying any shortfalls with the current voluntary approach, and addressing this through the introduction of a co-regulatory agreement; monitor, evaluate and report on
effectiveness of co-regulation
– Introduce legislation within four years if these measures are not demonstrated to be effective

6. Strengthen, skill and support primary healthcare and public health workforce to support people in making healthy choices

7. Address maternal and child health, enhancing early life and growth patterns

8. Support low-income communities to improve their levels of physical activity and healthy eating

9. Reduce obesity prevalence and burden among Indigenous Australians

10. Build the evidence base, monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of actions
– Carry out a National Risk Factor Survey in 2010
– Repeat the National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey in 2012
– NPA to work with national research agencies to establish a National Research Agenda for obesity
– Support ongoing research on effective strategies to address social determinants of obesity in Indigenous communities.

These recommendations formed the first phase (2010-2013) of the recommended approach to tackle obesity.

The second and third phases would involve an analysis of progress and the further development of the suggestions outlined above.


The full report can be found here.

To view the food industry response please click here.