Australia slows down on healthy eating

Australia slows down on healthy eating

Australia lags behind other countries in addressing the unhealthy state of our food systems.


  • Gary Sax

    Associate Professor, Deakin University

  • davina man

    Research Fellow, Deakin University

Several other countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Mexico, have recently taken major steps to help improve population nutrition and prevent obesity.

but we have Latest reviewwhich was released as part of International Obesity CongressIt has found significant gaps in Australian Government policy with regard to international best practices, with limited policy progress in the past five years.

What did we evaluate?

Our assessment of the federal government included Australia’s scorecard in 50 policy areas to tackle unhealthy diets. These policy areas include key influences on what we buy and what we eat, including policies that affect the price and affordability of different foods, the types of foods available, how food is classified, and the way foods are promoted.

We have worked closely with government officials to document current action in each policy area. We then assessed how current policies compare to international standards.

Finally, we made recommendations to address the vulnerabilities, prioritizing them based on their relative importance and feasibility. 84 experts from 37 organizations participated in the assessment and prioritization process.

How does Australia compare to other countries?

We found that implementing globally recommended policies to improve population diets and tackle obesity in Australia falls short of international best practice.

There has been limited public policy progress in Australia in the past five years.

Areas where Australia does well

One of the only areas where Australia did well was in food labeling, with some regulations regarding ingredient lists, nutritional information panels and health claims being ranked among the best in the world.

The other area with the highest scores in Australia is that GST does not apply to fresh fruits and vegetables, which helps lower their prices compared to other, less healthy products.

What do other countries do best?

Many other countries have implemented policies to reduce the marketing of unhealthy foods and make it easier for people to choose healthy options.

Latin American countries are leading the way globally. Chile has put it in place Comprehensive restrictions on television advertising of unhealthy foods, clear warning labels on unhealthy product packaging, as well as taxes on sugary drinks. Mexico has Similar policies.

somewhere else in the world, More than 50 countries Now there are taxes on sugary drinks. there Clear evidence These taxes have reduced consumption of taxable products, while incentivizing soft drink manufacturers to reduce the sugar content of their drinks.

Many other governments are taking strong measures to protect children from exposure to the marketing of unhealthy foods. For example, the United Kingdom is set to Ban ads for unhealthy foods online, and on TV before 9 p.m. as of 2024. Canada has Similar laws before their parliament.

UK just introduced big changes How supermarkets work. Laws that went into effect this month mean that unhealthy products can no longer be displayed in prominent locations within stores, such as store entrances and exit areas.

In addition, the United Kingdom suggested ban on unhealthy food price cuts, although implementation continues Uncertain With the recent change in government leadership.

Many other innovative policies in place internationally. For example, in some parts of Mexico, retailers can not be sold Unhealthy food for children. And in Argentina there laws Determine the maximum sodium (salt) content in a batch of products.

How bad are Australian diets?

Unhealthy diets and obesity are major shareholders to poor health in Australia.

less than 7% of people in Australia follow a healthy diet in accordance with Australian Dietary Guidelines.

Approximately 65% of Australian adultsand 25% of Australian children are overweight or obese.

Although there is no good data on how these stats have changed in the past few years, it is possible that things have changed worst Since the start of the COVID pandemic.

unless We see comprehensive government actions to improve the diets of the population, there will be tremendous work Health and financial costs For individuals, societies and the economy in general.

What actions should Australia take?

The work of the federal government’s policy is need To improve population diets and tackle obesity. This includes:

  • Protect children from exposure to the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages through comprehensive and consistent national legislation

  • Implement a health tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (sugar tax) and other unhealthy foods, while addressing the affordability of healthy food

  • Improving food labeling by assigning Health Star Rating Chart It requires warning labels on products that are high in added sugar, sodium (salt) and/or saturated fat.

What is holding us back?

In the past 12 months, the previous federal government has released major strategies in this area, including National Preventive Health Strategy (2021-2030) and the National Obesity Strategy (2022-2032). But this did not lead to any changes on the ground.

Crucially, there is a strong the support From the Australian community of governments to impose higher standards on marketing to support children’s health and well-being. more than 75% of Australians Also support warning labels on unhealthy foods.

It is promising to see momentum build around A legislative ban on the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children.

But now is the time for the federal government to catch up with the rest of the world and implement meaningful policy change to help Australians improve their diets.

Gary Sachs receives funding from the National Heart Foundation of Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Research Council, and VicHealth.

Davina Mann does not operate, consult, hold stock or receive funding from any company or organization that may benefit from this article, and has not disclosed any relevant affiliations following her academic appointment.

/ With permission from The Conversation. This material from the original organization(s)(s) may be of a point in time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The opinions and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).

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