A university analysis of the Federal Government’s Food and Health Dialogue has cast a damning light on Australia's eating habits. The report found that despite mounting pressure from numerous health groups, Australian foods continue to be dangerously high in fat, sugar and salt due to weak regulatory controls.
CD picture from Shutterstock
We occasionally get accused by certain readers of indulging in irresponsible fast food coverage, despite the fact that we publish significantly more health-related articles. However, it would appear that any additional efforts to warn people off takeaway food would have been largely wasted — new research from the George Institute and The University of Sydney has shown that Australians continue to indulge in fatty, sugary and salty snacks despite national efforts to make foods healthier.
Professor Bruce Neal and his team evaluated the Federal Government’s Food and Health Dialogue, which aims to change people's diets and improve the nutritional profile of foods. They found that in the first four years, targets were set for just 11 out of a possible 124 action areas (8.9%) and none have as of yet been delivered.
In addition, the investigators were unable to find clear reporting of objectives or planned outcomes, nor any systematic baseline data collection and little quantitative reporting of progress between October 2009 and September 2013.
“If we are to get on top of health problems like obesity, diabetes and heart disease we have to fully implement the Dialogue objectives," Professor Neal urged in a statement.
"The huge quantities of salt, sugar and fat added to the food supply by industry are now the main cause of ill health in the country...Unfortunately, while the government has been doing a stellar job on tobacco control, it’s not doing quite so well in the food space."
The report found that while the Dialogue has highly creditable goals, the mechanism for delivering on them has proved inadequate. According to Neal's report, a rationalising of stakeholder roles (including clearer policies that the food industry must follow), clearer targets/timelines with consequences for non-achievement and better transparency/reporting are all needed to combat the Dialogue's current glacial pace.
“Clearly this is a complex and ongoing process. Some companies have been making a real effort, but if you look at the big picture progress has been depressingly slow,” Neal concluded. You can read the full report at the following link.
A systematic interim assessment of the Australian Government’s Food and Health Dialogue [Medical Journal of Australia]