Australian Government’s dietary guidelines criticised by growers of oilseeds and ‘healthy’ oils

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 21st March 2012

Australian growers who supply product for oils made from olive, canola, sunflower and soybean have criticised the latest Australian government health recommendations on dietary guidelines for for oils and fats.

The draft Australian Dietary Guidelines and Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, developed by National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) which is the Federal government’s peak body for developing health advice for Australians, were revised for the first time in eight years in December 2011.

The revised draft guidelines recommended that the well-known ‘healthier’ oils, and products using these healthy oils, be nevertheless used in “small amounts”.

Growers’ criticisms of draft guidelines

The Australian growers say the health benefits of these oils have been understated in these official guidelines.

NSW farmer Mike O’Hare said, “I go to great lengths to ensure that the canola I grow contains as much healthy oils as possible. Yet, for all the effort and cost that goes into producing a great crop, we get the rug pulled out from under us with these government recommendations that don’t push Australian grown healthy oils.”

Olive oil producer, and CEO of the Australian Olive Association, Lisa Rowntree said, “We are growing Australian olives, rich in monounsaturated oils, known to be beneficial for heart health, yet the Government fails to acknowledge this with these latest recommendations.”

Leading nutritionist, and author of a number of books on heart health, Nicole Senior is equally disappointed at the latest NHMRC recommendations. She said, “The scientific evidence is clear – we need to replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats like those in oils – not avoid fats altogether. The NMHRC needs to encourage Australians to eat more healthy oil-rich foods and bury the low-fat advice of the past.”

According to the Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF), the draft guidelines also risk the sustainability of Australian oils manufacturing and processing sector. Nick Goddard, from the AOF said, “We have billion dollar industry in Australia geared towards processing, packing and selling oils and food products using these healthy oils, and by effectively saying ‘eat these oils sparingly’ there is little incentive for the oils processing and manufacturing sector to invest in their plants and their brands”

Submissions to the NH&MRC draft guidelines closed in February 2012, and the AOF is hoping that the expert panel devising the guidelines will re-visit the evidence to advocate more positively in favour of the so-called, “healthy” oils for the Australian diet.

The Guidelines are reviewed periodically, with the latest review expected to be finalised later in 2012.