Health groups demand junk food strategy

junk food: french fries

Four leading health groups are urging new Health Minister Sussan Ley to take decisive action to end the widespread marketing of junk food and drink to children.

The call follows new poll results which show that 79% of Australians believe if we don’t do more to lower the intake of fatty, sugary and salty foods and drinks, children will have shorter lives than their parents.

The poll, by Essential Research, also showed 77% of people support compulsory health star ratings on all packaged foods.

The Consumers Health Forum, the Heart Foundation, the Obesity Policy Coalition and the Public Health Association of Australia are calling on Minister Ley to work with Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash to develop a comprehensive national obesity prevention strategy.

This would include:

  • Moving as quickly as possible to make the new health food stars rating system compulsory for packaged food products, a measure supported by more than three quarters of people polled.
  • Opposing the marketing of junk food to children on social media and outlawing advertising of these products during TV programs popular with children, including sports broadcasts
  • Exploring a tax on sugar sweetened beverages
  • Renewing and strengthening the national food reformulation program to reduce excessive sugar, fat and salts in processed food.

“It’s time for decisive action when 85% of Australians says unhealthy diet is a problem for our children and 79% fear their children will live shorter lives because of their fatty, sugary and salty food and drinks,” the four organisations say.

“It is disturbing that nearly two-thirds of Australians say the food industry seems to have more say than the Government over the regulation of food.

“The evidence is damning. On unhealthy food promotion, profits have been put before people.

“Despite at least six reports from taskforces, obesity summits and research papers in the past 20 years advocating firm measures to stop marketing junk food to children, the advertising of fat, sugar and salt-drenched products continues largely unrestricted.

“Disturbingly, junk food promotion has become more insidious via social media where children are preyed upon by food companies, out of sight of parents.

“It is a sick deception for opponents of restrictions on junk food advertising to children to talk of ‘nanny state’ measures.

“It is the food industry which has received the nanny state treatment, being protected by governments.  Their products are a major factor in the spread of obesity, now costing Australia an estimated $56billion a year in direct and indirect costs.”

More than half of Australians polled rejected the suggestion that regulating junk food advertising to children on TV and social media would be “nanny state” overreaction

“Making the health star system mandatory for packaged food would be a win-win-win for the Government. The measure is supported by 77% of Australians. It would trigger long term population-wide health benefits. It would be at virtually no cost to the taxpayer.

“We acknowledge the work of Minister Nash in rolling out the health food stars. Now it is time for the Government to step up the concerted action needed to safeguard the health of our children for the future,” the four organisations say.

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