The Australian governmental investigation into obesity has supported self-regulation as the first option for reducing the salt, sugar and fat content of foods.

In its report, Weighing it up: Obesity in Australia, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing called for a “phased” approach to tackle the reformulation of food products.

The report suggested that the Minister for Health and Ageing should first encourage the food industry to make changes through self-regulation. Only if this fails should the government consider intervention.

The report argued that, as part of this phased approach, the Minister for Health and Ageing should engage with interested bodies, such as the Australian Food and Grocery Council, the Dietitians Association of Australia and the Heart Foundation, to develop and implement a Healthy Food Code of Good Practice.

In a bid to encourage healthy eating, the committee called for tax incentives to be used as a tool to make healthier foods more affordable.

The Federal Government should also use the results of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand food labelling review to establish guidelines designed to ensure the presentation of consistent nutritional information, the report suggested.

Using these guidelines, the Federal Government should work with the food industry to develop and implement this standardised food label.

Other proposals included cross-governmental cooperation on the development of social marketing and education programmes about obesity, the support of after school activity programmes, and public finding for bariatric surgery. According to the report, obesity should be put on the Medicare Benefits Schedule as a chronic disease.

Further research into the impact of advertising unhealthy foods on the eating habits of children is required, the report added.