Australian Food Labelling Study Hits the World Obesity Stage

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 13th May 2013

An Australian study which addresses the benefits of education about nutritional information in fast food is being presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Liverpool on Monday 13th May.

Professor Ian Caterson, of the Boden Institute of Obesity Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders at the University of Sydney, is presenting the paper to the ECO delegates.

The study concludes that information in fast food outlets helps improve awareness of and reduce energy intake amongst consumers.

According to Professor Ian Caterson, the compulsory kilojoule (kJ) signing in fast food chains and supermarkets in NSW also requires educational campaigns to support the introduction of mandatory menu board labelling.

Professor Caterson reports that mandatory food labelling, based on average Australian adult daily intake of 8700kJ, is now compulsory in NSW, SA and the ACT.

The Australian study conducted a literature review which “showed that labelling in overseas jurisdictions using a voluntary approach pointed to the need for a supporting consumer education campaign”.

The Bowden Institute’s research included a baseline consumer study measuring the preexisting level of awareness of kJ and any relationship to food choices, followed by two waves of online surveys and in-store questionnaires.  A comprehensive advertising campaign, including ‘shopalite’ adverts, online Facebook adverts, and search engine adverts was undertaken.

The researchers found improved awareness of consumers able to nominate the correct range of the average daily intake.

According to the study, the ‘most encouraging’ result of the study was that the median kJ of energy per purchase decreased (down 519kJ).

Samara Kitchener, of the NSW Food Authority commented that “the case study and survey findings provide evidence of how legislation coupled with an appropriate education campaign can positively contribute to shifts in consumer knowledge and

encouraging signs of a decrease in kJ purchased.”

Kitcheneradded, “[t]he challenge is to sustain the effort and bring about a long-term commitment to behaviour change.”

According to Professor Caterson, “Australia is experiencing unprecedented levels of overweight and obesity and NSW as Australia’s most populous jurisdiction is no exception … In 2011, 52.6% of NSW adults were overweight or obese.”