The Australian food industry has welcomed the findings of the latest government investigation into how to tackle obesity, which supports self-regulation.
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 encourage the food industry to make changes through self-regulation. Only if this fails should the government consider intervention.
Industry body, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), welcomed the report’s findings, which, it said, recognised the positive role the industry should play in combating obesity.
“AFGC supports the phased approach regarding regulations on the reformulation of food products,” AFGC chief executive Kate Carnell said.
“We are pleased that the committee sees a positive role for industry not just in terms of product reformulations but also in through the work we are doing with the Department of Health and Ageing and other key organisations to improve the nutritional content of food to help people make better dietary choices,” Carnell said.
Carnell also supported the report’s recommendation that further research be carried out to determine the impact of advertising unhealthy foods to children and suggested that it would “help” the industry “increase the effectiveness” of the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative, which started on 1 January.
“This has been a topical issue but with very little reliable data on the links between advertising and obesity,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Australian Heart Foundation also broadly supported the report.
“The Heart Foundation is supportive of any initiative that genuinely guides people to make healthier food and drink choices,” the charity’s CEO Dr Lyn Roberts said.
The report also received the backing of other consumer organisations, including the George Institute, which has been co-ordinating the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) campaign.
“The Committee should be congratulated for its recommendations to tighten controls on the food industry. Self-regulation as a driver for reformulation of foods is a valid mechanism which has been tried and tested in other countries,” Professor Bruce Neal, senior director at The George Institute said.
However, he added: “It can only be effective if there are clear targets and independent mechanisms for monitoring food industry progress towards achieving such targets.”