Better fast food labelling a 'high priority'
The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) has prioritised mandatory kilojoule labelling on chain fast food outlet menus in its bid to stem the burden of lifestyle-related chronic disease in Victorian communities.
The OPC called on all Victorian political parties to commit to taking on the matter with the launch of its 2014 state election policy platform, 'Next steps: building on the prevention system to address overweight and obesity in Victoria.'
Executive Manager of the OPC, Jane Martin, said: "We are calling on all parties to prioritise the five key actions that have the potential to halt the alarming rise of overweight and obesity across Victoria, given that over 60 per cent per cent of Victorians are in that category.
Mandatory food labelling
"High on the list is the introduction of mandatory kilojoule labelling on chain fast food outlet menus across Victoria. Victoria is lagging behind other states and territories with similar schemes already in place in New South Wales, the ACT and South Australia, providing clear information to consumers to empower them to make informed, healthier choices."
"We know that when clear information about the energy content of food is provided, along with education about energy requirements, people are encouraged to make purchases that are overall lower in energy."
Children's sport sponsorship
Another recommendation outlined involves phasing out sponsorship of children's sport through the promotion of unhealthy food and beverage options by companies.
"Reducing children's exposure to marketing of unhealthy food, especially through junior sport, is extremely important. Research shows this type of marketing influences kids' attitudes to foods and diets, which is worrying as we need to be setting them up for life by promoting healthy habits in childhood," said Martin.
"It's important that kids play and enjoy sport but we also need to give kids a chance to form lifelong healthy diets and lifestyles, and to experience childhood without the intrusion of junk food marketing. We don't allow tobacco advertising to children, yet poor diets have overtaken tobacco as a leading cause of premature death in Australia – so why are we OK with McDonalds sponsoring Little Athletics and Basketball Victoria's 'Hooptime' junior development program?"
Unfortunately in Victoria kids continue to be targeted by the processed food and beverage industry through junior sport despite strong public opposition, according to Martin. More than two thirds (69 per cent) of Australian adults surveyed believe that sponsorship of children's sporting events by fast food chains should be restricted, if not stopped entirely.