Rural Health Minister Fiona Nash has announced a new partnership of preventative health groups, food industry bodies and government to cooperatively tackle obesity and encourage healthy eating.
Minister Nash, Minister responsible for food policy, 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.
“Governments can’t force-feed healthy food to people,” Minister Nash says.
“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.”
She says it is only through cooperation and collaboration that real results can be achieved.
“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,” the Minister says.
“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.”
The Public Health Association, the Australian Food and Grocery Council, the Heart Foundation and AusVeg all welcomed the Partnership.
Public Health Association CEO Michael Moore said: “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.”
National CEO of the Heart Foundation Mary Barry said: “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.”
Minister Nash says the Coalition Government has 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,” she says.
“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 program to encourage students to take up sport.”
The Coalition Government will continue its collaborative approach to achieve greater health outcomes in food policy.