NSW residents support stricter standards for food marketing and labelling: new research
By Cancer Council NSW
New research released today from Cancer Council NSW shows strong and sustained community support for obesity prevention policies on food labelling and food marketing to children. This research comes as the public health community calls for the release of the National Obesity Strategy.
Cancer Council NSW’s Nutrition Unit Manager, Clare Hughes says, “Obesity in Australia is an urgent public health issue with two thirds of adults and one in four children above a healthy weight. Our study of over 1600 NSW residents showed the community is behind measures to address obesity so intergovernmental action is needed.”
The release of the National Obesity Strategy has been delayed and may not be considered by Health Ministers until 2022, but Cancer Council NSW is urging its release as a priority to help tackle many of the contributing factors to the state’s high rates of obesity.
With more than nine out of ten Australian adults and children not eating a healthy diet and obesity being a risk factor for 13 different cancers, we need action now. While the COVID-19 crisis understandably dominates public health focus, evidence continues to emerge of obesity as a risk factor for more severe COVID-19 disease and mortality. Evidence of changes in food consumption and physical activity patterns during periods of prolonged lockdown is also emerging.
77% think regulation should stop unhealthy foods making nutrition claims that may give the impression that they are healthier
65% said children should be protected from unhealthy food advertising
Over 70% are concerned about unhealthy food ads on TV (74%) and unhealthy food companies sponsoring both children’s sports (72%)
68% of parents are concerned about unhealthy food sponsorship of elite sports and unhealthy food ads online and in social media
The charity says Australia is lagging behind many countries around the world on policies to address the rising overweight and obesity rates, including mandated food labelling, regulation of food marketing and taxes on sugary drinks.
“Overseas there has been more policy progress with products in Chile restricted from marketing to children if they carry a warning sign for high energy, saturated fat, sodium, or sugar. The UK are taking steps to address unhealthy food marketing on television and online and Transport for London no longer allow unhealthy food ads,” Ms Hughes continues.
“We acknowledge the significant work that NSW Health has carried out to address overweight and obesity rates in NSW over many years. But work on the National Obesity Strategy began in 2018, and there was extensive consultation. We see no reason why this important public health strategy should be delayed any further when obesity rates continue to rise. Our results show strong support for obesity prevention policy among the NSW community so we’re calling on the NSW Government to support the urgent release of the National Obesity Strategy
“In that time, children have been bombarded with junk food ads, unhealthy food products have continued to make misleading claims, and Health Stars have only been displayed on a selection of foods. The release of the strategy is imperative to provide a plan to protect our communities and ultimately save lives,” Ms Hughes concludes.