Health experts take hard line on junk food and soft drink

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 6th April 2010

Various public health experts have called for the government to take drastic steps in limiting the advertising of junk food in an attempt to combat obesity.

At the same time, calls have been made to remove full-sugar Coca-Cola products entirely from community stores in the Northern Territory, where diabetes and high blood sugar affect over 10% of the indigenous population.

The Medical Journal of Australia this week featured two viewpoint articles on junk food marketing.

The first, from Monash academics Associate Professor Bebe Loff and Mr Brad Crammond, suggested that advertising of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods should be entirely prohibited.  “Government needs to prioritise health ahead of industrial productivity and increased consumption,” they state.

The second article, by VicHealth CEO Todd Harper and Professor Gavin Mooney of Curtin University, suggests that advertising expenditure on junk food and alcohol should be levied as an incentive towards healthy products, with proceeds going to food education.

The proposals in the articles have received support from the Australian Greens, with leader Bob Brown endorsing the levy.  “The levy on junk food advertising now being proposed by public health advocates is one that the government should take up,” Senator Brown said.

Meanwhile, Professor Kerin O’Dea of the University of South Australia called for Coca-Cola to remove its full-sugar products entirely from Northern Territory community stores.

As part of their corporate responsibility strategy, Coca-Cola began a campaign in 2006 to encourage NT’s indigenous community away from sugary soft drinks, by encouraging other product lines such as Diet Coke and Mount Franklin; however, there is no measure of effectiveness available, and diabetes rates remain critical. However, Coca-Cola Amatil’s director of public affairs, Sally Loane, told the ABC that a full withdrawl was not necessary.  “We want to give people the choice,” she said.