4 in 5 Victorians support kilojoules on the menu: survey shows

10 Feb 2017

Leading health bodies welcome kJ menu labelling bill

Leading health organisations have today congratulated the Victorian Government for passing legislation to make kilojoule labelling on menus mandatory, as new data shows the majority of Victorians support the move, along with an education campaign.

The Heart Foundation, Cancer Council Victoria and Obesity Policy Coalition have been advocating for mandatory kilojoule labelling laws in Victorian fast food chains for several years to empower consumers to order meals lower in kilojoules.

Heart Foundation Victoria CEO Kellie-Ann Jolly said the laws would be popular with a new survey showing that four in five Victorian adults want kilojoule information in fast food and snack chain [i].

"Victorians are eating out more than ever and many people want to make healthier choices. These new laws will ensure consumers can compare the kilojoule content of the food and drinks on offer and help them make more informed decisions," Ms Jolly said.

Under the proposed laws, large Victorian fast food and supermarket chains will be required to display the kilojoule content of food and drinks, along with the average daily energy intake (8,700kJ) on their menus by 2018.

"As well as displaying the energy content on menus, our research shows Victorians are also in favour of an education campaign to help explain kilojoules – what's high, what's low and how many we need each day," Ms Jolly added.

Currently, more than half (52%) of Victorians [ii] said they weren't sure how many kilojoules were in the foods and drinks they purchased from fast food and snack chains.

Of those who weren't sure, more than two thirds (67%) believed an education campaign would help them understand how many kilojoules were in food and drinks they consumed and three in five (58%) said it would help them understand how many they need in a day.

Cancer Council Victoria Accredited Practicing Dietitian Alison McAleese said displaying kilojoules on menus, along with an education campaign, has been shown to be effective and would be a positive step in helping to tackle our overweight and obesity problem.

"Nearly two thirds of Victorians are overweight and obese – a leading risk factor for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers," Ms McAleese said.

"When the New South Wales government introduced their kilojoule menu labelling scheme along with the 8700 public education campaign, consumers chose meals that were on average 15 per cent lower in kilojoules.

"For a person who eats fast food meals every day, consuming 15 per cent fewer kilojoules each day for a year could help prevent around five kilograms in weight gain [iii].

Obesity Policy Coalition Executive Manager Jane Martin said the new legislation will bring Victoria in line with New South Wales, the ACT, South Australia and Queensland and ensure consistent information is provided on menu boards in food outlets in these jurisdictions.

"While there is no silver bullet for reducing overweight and obesity, the introduction of mandatory kilojoule menu labelling in Victoria is an important step," Ms Martin said.

"Currently 63 per cent of Australian adults and 27 per cent of children are overweight or obese. The Obesity Policy Coalition wants to see a comprehensive national obesity strategy with policies including tougher restrictions on marketing of junk food to children and a tax on sugary drinks tax to tackle our serious weight problem."

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[i] Heart Foundation and Cancer Council Victoria survey of 1,000 Victorians aged 25-49 conducted in April 2015.

[ii] Heart Foundation and Cancer Council Victoria survey of 558 Victorians aged 25-49 conducted in July 2016. 

[iii] The NSW evaluation found an average reduction of 519kJ per meal purchased (equates to 15%). Consuming an extra 519kJ per day than is required adds up to 190,000kJ over a year. Excess energy is stored in the body as fat. 37,000kJ of stored energy is around 1kg fat. Therefore 190,000kJ is 5kg stored fat. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/kilojoules-and-calories

The Obesity Policy Coalition is a group of leading public health agencies who are concerned about the high levels of overweight and obesity, particularly in children. The Obesity Policy Coalition is a partnership between Diabetes Victoria, Cancer Council Victoria and the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University, with funding from VicHealth. For more information visit opc.org.au

LiveLighter is a public health education campaign delivered by the Cancer Council Victoria and Heart Foundation. LiveLighter encourages Victorians to lead healthier lives by changing what they eat and drink, and being more active. For healthy recipes, tools and resources, visit livelighter.com.au