Big Sugar And The 'Big Flaw' In Australia's Federal Health Programs

The government has started the second phase of its awareness campaign for Australia’s year-old health star food-rating system. The A$2.1 million campaign is aimed at educating grocery buyers about how to shop for healthy food and encouraging the food industry to adopt the voluntary system.

But it’s unlikely the campaign will fulfill its first aim because health stars are predominantly being used by the food industry to market highly processed food products. It would be unfortunate if it was successful in its latter aim because unless we change the way the system currently works, consumers will be the losers.

Sixty percent of us are overweight or obese, and by 2025 that figure will rise to 80 percent.

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Despite this, Australia still has no national obesity strategy.

What we do have are two key federal programs — the Healthy Food Partnership to encourage healthy eating, and the Health Star rating, a front-of-pack labeling system.

But the rules for these two initiatives have been set by committees made up of government and public health advocates, as well as food industry representatives.

According to one insider who spoke to Four Corners, “the reality is that industry is … making most of the policy”, and public health advocates are only included “so we can have the least-worst solution”.

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Companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Unilever, Nestle, and Kelloggs have a seat at the table setting the policies that shape consumption of their own sugar-laced products.

As Australia’s obesity and diabetes rates continue to soar, public health advocates have told Four Corners the industry has been obstructing and delaying policy outcomes that would lead to better health.

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And they have likened their tactics to those deployed by the tobacco industry.

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