Healthy Food Partnership To Tackle Obesity

Department of Health LogoThe Federal Government, preventative health groups, food industry bodies, and the biggest supermarkets in Australia are coming together to to cooperatively tackle obesity and encourage healthy eating.

Rural Health Minister Fiona Nash , the Minister responsible for food policy, announced the new partnership and will chair the new Healthy Food Partnership.

The Partnership will have its first meeting on November 13 in Canberra. Attendees will include the Public Health Association, the Heart Foundation, the Australian Food and Grocery Council representing packaged food companies and the quick service restaurants, Woolworths, Metcash (owner of IGA), Coles; the Dietitians Association of Australia, AusVeg, which represents 9000 vegetable growers, Dairy Australia and Meat and Livestock Australia.

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Fiona Nash

Fiona Nash

“Governments can’t force-feed healthy food to people,” Minister Nash said.“We can however educate them to make their own healthy choices and take responsibility for what they eat. Australians under-consume fresh fruit and vegetables and this presents a dual opportunity – increasing consumption of fresh produce would benefit both consumer health and Australian farmers.

“The Healthy Food Partnership will work together on strategies to educate consumers on consuming fresh produce, appropriate portion sizes, and to accelerate efforts to reformulate food to make it healthier.

“It is only through cooperation and collaboration that we can achieve real results.

“We know the evidence is that those people who eat big portions tend to be overweight, and obesity is an issue which requires our attention.

“We will work with the food industry and preventative health organisations to create real plans to educate consumers on fresh produce and appropriate portion sizes.”

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In March 2009 the Australian Government acknowledged the need to assist Australians in modifying risk behaviours, such as poor dietary habits, that contribute to preventable chronic diseases and established the Food and Health Dialogue (the Dialogue).

Since its inception the Dialogue has achieved industry agreement on 20 reformulation targets within nine food categories. These are sodium targets for bread, ready to eat breakfast cereal, simmer sauces, processed meats, soups, savoury pies, savoury crackers, potato/corn and extruded snacks and cheese. Saturated fat targets have also been agreed for processed meats.

The average Australian consumes about 9 grams of salt every day. The goal for an average adult is to consume less than 2300 mg of sodium (6 grams of salt) a day.

The Public Health Association, the Australian Food and Grocery Council, the Heart Foundation and AusVeg all welcomed the new Healthy Food Partnership.

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Mary Barry National CEO of the Heart Foundation

Mary Barry

“Food reformulation works by reducing salt, saturated fat and sugar in packaged food and is one of the most cost-effective public health measures available. This type of model is being used worldwide to prevent premature death from diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. We applaud the Government for getting this important initiative up and running.”
Mary Barry – National CEO of the Heart Foundation

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Public Health Association CEO Michael Moore

Michael Moore

“With diet related disease becoming such a significant issue in Australia, we have to do all we can to counter the problems. The Healthy Food Partnership is certainly one way forward. I’m very pleased to be part of it.”
Michael Moore – Public Health Association CEO

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Gary Dawson

Gary Dawson

“The Government is to be congratulated for successfully bringing together food producers, processors, retailers and public health groups with the common goal of improving the diet of all Australians. Australia’s $118 billion food and grocery industry transforms farm produce into food and the essentials of life for every consumer every day, and has played a lead role in reformulation, better information and choice for consumers seeking healthier options.”
Gary Dawson – Australian Food and Grocery Council CEO

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AusVeg CEO Richard Mulcahy

Richard Mulcahy

“We know Australians need to consume more fresh fruit and vegetables. Increasing consumption could benefit both consumers and farmers.”
Richard Mulcahy – AusVeg CEO

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Fiona Nash

Fiona Nash

Minister Nash said the Coalition Government had a proven track record on food issues.”I know the importance of eating fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, dairy and meat as part of a balanced diet.

“The Partnership will complement the successful Health Star Rating system which now covers 1,500 products on supermarket shelves. Industry is actively making their products healthier to receive better Health Star ratings – both Nestle and Kellogg’s have done so in the past month. Furthermore, independent research has found the HSR system is becoming more widely recognised and used.

“The Partnership will further build upon the Government’s current efforts to encourage people to get active through the Sporting Schools Initiative, a $100 million programme to encourage students to take up sport.”

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Food For Thought – Have Your Say

We are interested in what you think. Please feel free to add your views in the Comments section below. Here are a few talking points.

  • Is this “Big Brother” telling us what we can eat or is it a good initiative to combat rising obesity in the population
  • Should manufacturers be given reduction targets of current products or instead be required to offer additional alternative healthier options. One concern held by manufacturers is that to independantly change the formulation of a product can cause a consumer backlash and see them jumpimg ship to competitors
  • And when the people speak – Remember the 2012 social media frenzy that occurred when Streets changed their Banana Paddle Pop by removing the vegetable oil. The reduction targets seem to be farcical when the consumer can say “Hey, we want our product back the way it was”. Should overwhelming public pressure be sufficient to negate any specific reduction target, just as the same pressure can see healthier products reach the shelves
  • The UK has already set its revised targets to reduce salt in 76 food categories. Rather than reinventing the wheel and wasting time on devising new targets, why dont we just adopt the British targets ?

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