On the menu for next Vic Govt: Better fast food labelling, less junk in kids' sport & beefed up planning laws

18 Jul 2014

Leading health experts launch five step action plan to fight obesity in Victoria

The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) today called on all Victorian political parties to commit to taking action towards stemming the burden of lifestyle-related chronic disease in Victorian communities 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 of Victorians are in that category [1]."

"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."

Also high on the list of priorities is the recommendation to amend planning laws to promote health and wellbeing.

"Bringing planning laws into line with Victoria‟s public health goals could have a positive impact on the health of communities by influencing the placement and density of fast food outlets, creating healthier food environments."

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 Ms 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 Ms Martin. More than two thirds (69%) of Australian adults surveyed believe that sponsorship of children‟s sporting events by fast food chains should be restricted, if not stopped entirely.

To view the full five step action plan, visit www.opc.org.au.

1. Victorian Health Monitor Report 2012