NSW convenes Fast Food Forum

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 19th August 2010

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally yesterday convened the NSW Government’s fast food forum, which includes key policy makers, health representatives, consumer advocates, and fast food producers, manufacturers and suppliers, to discuss food content, labelling and point-of-sale nutritional information.

“I would like to thank both health and consumer advocates, and the fast food industry for participating in today’s NSW fast food forum,” Keneally said. “This is a great opportunity to work with fast food businesses, consumer and healthy food advocates, to discuss the best ways of providing more information about fast food.”

“I recognise there are real challenges with food labelling and food content for the fast food industry, especially for small franchisees. This is about sitting down and discussing the issues with the industry, and seeing what measures are workable and can be put in place.”

The fast food forum will provide an opportunity for attendees to hear from health advocates about the benefits of reducing calorie, trans fat, saturated fat and salt content of fast food meals. They will also hear from the fast food industry on its experiences and challenges in developing and marketing healthier product lines and disclosing nutritional information, and have the chance to discuss opportunities for practical regulatory settings for disclosure of nutritional information about fast food, and regulation of fast food content.

At the beginning of 2009, there were close to 16,000 fast food outlets in Australia, serving 1.6 billion meals a year.

“Many families in NSW are becoming more time poor and health conscious, and people want to make an informed choice about their food,” Keneally said. “More and more NSW families are eating fast food, and if they are not preparing food themselves, they want more information about what they are eating.”

In May 2010, Premier Keneally announced the NSW Government submission to the Blewett food labelling review, chaired by Dr Neil Blewett, to consider national policies on nutrition, consumer choice, healthy lifestyles and enforcement issues.

In their submission, NSW suggested large fast food chains should be required to publish the calorie/kilojoule, saturated fat, trans-fat and salt content of their products and menus – a suggestion that has already been adopted in Victoria.

Today’s forum is expected to inform NSW’s position going into national Council of Australian Governments discussions on the issue of food labelling, once the Blewett Review concludes in early 2011.

“This is about tackling the obesity epidemic head on, and developing a solution that improves information, is nationally consistent and is workable,” Ms Keneally said.

The forum will be co-chaired by former NSW Premier and healthy food advocate, Bob Carr, and Executive Director of the Sydney Business Chamber and former Liberal Shadow Minister, Patricia Forsythe, and formally hosted by NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Health Carmel Tebbutt and NSW Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan.