Exposing the truth on fast food restaurants

Australians spend almost a third of household food budget on fast food and eating out.

Australian’s expenditure on fast food and eating out has grown by 50 per cent (1)  in the past six years, with Australians spending nearly a third (2) of their weekly household food budget on dining out and fast foods.

The figures come as Cancer Council releases ‘Fast Food: Exposing the Truth’ a report providing key recommendations aiming to tackle the impact that fast food and the fast food industry has on chronic diseases and obesity rates in Australia.

The report reveals major inconsistencies in the availability of nutrition information in fast food stores across Australia, with certain states and fast food chains providing kilojoule labelling in-store whilst consumers in other states are left in the dark about the energy content of their food.

The report also revealed the need for reformulation targets to be established to reduce the amount of saturated fat, salt and sugars that are found in fast food menu items.

Clare Hughes, Nutrition Program Manager at Cancer Council NSW said Federal Government and the fast food industry need to introduce mandatory reformulation targets and energy labelling in all states and tighten existing initiatives to reduce the unhealthy impact that fast food has on Australian’s health.

“More than 60% of Australian adults and almost a quarter of Australian children are currently either overweight or obese,” she said.

“We are now choosing to eat out more often and spend nearly a third of our weekly household food budget on foods we eat away from home. Unfortunately much of this is fast food and convenience foods that are laden with saturated fats, added sugars and salt, and loaded with kilojoules.

“Mandatory kilojoule labelling has already been introduced in NSW, and this is a step in the right direction. But it needs to be introduced across Australia, with more detailed information also available in store. Our survey of fast food chains found that customers who wanted to make informed choices were getting different levels of nutrition information depending on where they dined.

“While fast food should be a rare treat, our busy lives mean that we are eating out more often and relying on take away and convenience foods. New measures need to be introduced to make it easier to choose healthier foods when we are eating out, and to gradually reduce the levels of kilojoules, fats and salt in fast food.

“For years nutrition information panels on packaged foods have helped us to identify healthier choices in the supermarket. We should also have the right to be informed when we’re eating out, with easy access to information to assist consumers in choosing healthier meal options and snacks.”

The fast food industry has committed to work with the Federal Government but so far there has been no commitment to reformulate their products. Our research showed that Australians aren’t buying the one or two items that are promoted as ‘healthy’ choices so we’d like to see firm commitment from both industry and government to reduce the amount of kilojoules, fats, sugars and salt, to make standard menu items healthier.

“We know that obesity and the problems associated with it, such as certain cancers, diabetes and heart disease will continue to spiral out of control if the government doesn’t take action now, said Ms Hughes.”

Media Contact:

Gina Murphy, Cancer Council NSW, 02-9334 1428 / 0413 889 283

 

‘Fast Food: Exposing the Truth’

Cancer Council NSW has today launched a new fast food report ‘Fast Food: Exposing the Truth’ which is designed to highlight the current problems facing the discrepancies within the fast food industry in Australia. Cancer Council NSW is calling on the Federal Government and the fast food industry to step up and implement initiatives that make it easier for customers to make healthier fast food choices.

Key recommendations from the report include

  1. The Federal Government should introduce mandatory menu labelling in-store in fast food chains, nationwide.
  1. In the absence of nationwide mandatory menu labelling, the fast food industry should ensure that complete nutrition information is always available in-store.
  2. Fast food chains should ensure that staff receive training on the provision of nutrition information to customers.
  3. The fast food industry should reformulate their menu items to reduce the amount of energy, saturated fat, sugar and sodium.
  4. The Quick Service Restaurant Industry Initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing’s nutrient criteria should be revised to ensure that children’s fast food meals do not exceed 30% of children’s daily needs.
  5. The Food and Health Dialogue should set targets for voluntary reformulation of fast food, and move towards mandatory reductions.
  6. The fast food industry should promote healthier menu items in preference to their unhealthy menu items.

References

(1)   Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2009-10 Household Expenditure Survey Australia Summary of Results. 6530.0. 2011. Canberra, Australian Bureau of Statistics.

(2)   Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Social Trends. Australian Bureau of Statistics . 2006. Canberra, Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Download the report -  ‘Fast Food: Exposing the Truth’   (PDF 2.8Mb)