Heart Foundation calls on Gillard Government to follow Victoria’s lead on fast food labelling

Posted by Josette Dunn on 12th July 2010

The National Heart Foundation of Australia today congratulated the Victorian Government on its commitment to introduce mandatory provision of kilojoules on menus of large fast food chains and called on other Australian Governments to follow the move.

“If accepted nationally, we believe this initiative will not only make it easier for Australians who eat out to make healthier choices, but will also encourage food companies to improve the nutritional profile of foods on offer”, Ms Susan Anderson, National Director Healthy Weight, National Heart Foundation said today.

The Victorian announcement was made today by Premier John Brumby, joined by Health Minister Daniel Andrews and the Heart Foundation (Victoria).

The scheme, which was developed in consultation with the fast food industry and health experts, applies to fast food businesses with more than 50 outlets in Victoria
that sell prepared or unpackaged food and drink.

This initiative will ensure that Victorians are not only informed but educated about healthier choices at point of sale. Implementation for 2012 was chosen to allow
businesses the time to fully implement the changes.

The NSW Government made a similar commitment last month but did not make labelling of such details mandatory.

The Heart Foundation’s submission to the national review on food labelling chaired by Dr Neal Blewett, calls for a national, mandatory labelling scheme to be introduced in
fast food chains with more than 20 outlets.

“A mandatory scheme eliminates loopholes, maximises impact, reduces inequities within industry and better ensures consistency”, Ms Anderson said.

“As a minimum, any labelling scheme needs to include information on salt, saturated and trans fats as well as kilojoules to ensure people are making a genuinely healthier choice.

“We know that the Heart Foundation Tick program has encouraged many of Australia s largest and most successful food producers to reduce the saturated fat and
kilojoules in their products, while increasing other important nutrients like fibre.

“Heart Foundation Tick licensees have been providing nutrition information at point of sale for foods eaten out of home since 2006 so we know it can be done, but we need to do much more”.

With 2.6 million Australians now eating at a large fast food chain every day, it’s time for governments to get involved in making information available so consumers can choose healthier foods.

More than two thirds of Australians believe the Tick makes choosing healthier foods easier, and so we need to find a way of extending this model across more foods for more people.

The Heart Foundations would also like to see governments run an education program to help Australians understand food labelling and make better choices in the supermarket and when they are eating out.

Australians are eating twice the recommended maximum amount of saturated fat, which is a major factor in causing heart disease, Australia’s number one killer.

“Any move which genuinely helps Australians make healthier choices is to be congratulated”, Ms Anderson said.