Greens press for anti-obesity industry regulation

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 13th April 2010

The Australian Greens are continuing to press for greater food industry regulation to combat obesity, following the publication of a study in the latest Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health revealed that obesity has overtaken smoking to become the leading independent risk factor impacting health in Western Australia.

Greens health spokesperson Senator Rachel Siewert called for “firm action” on preventative health and regulatory reform of the food industry.

“We need strong action on food standards, tighter regulation on food labelling to deliver more effective information to consumers, and a comprehensive ban on the marketing junk food to children,” said Senator Siewert.

The senator brought up tobacco control as a model for the restriction of advertising of unhealthy substances in the interests of public health.

“We should take a moment to celebrate the success of tobacco control. A multi-disciplinary approach to limiting the advertising and availability of tobacco and improved public education of the health risks of smoking has knocked ‘the smoko’ off its top peg as Australia’s number one cause of premature death,” said Senator Siewert. “While some of the details are a little different, there is still a lot we can learn from this success.”

The Western Australian study examined the burden of disease by years of life lost, both to death and disability. It revealed that high BMI accounted for 8.7% of the state’s burden of disease, with nearly half that figure being sufferers of type II diabetes. Tobacco, the next largest risk factor, accounted for 6.5%, followed by physical inactivity (6.1%), high blood pressure (6%), high blood cholesterol (5.0%), alcohol harm (3.8%), inadequate fruit and vegetables (2.3%), illicit drugs (1.6%) and unsafe sex (0.53%).