Education should be at heart of Australia’s obesity response

The Ai Group Confectionery Sector has made a submission to the Australian Parliament Senate Select Committee into the obesity epidemic in Australia. The inquiry, established on 16 May, conducted public hearings this last week in Sydney and Melbourne on 6 and 7 August, respectively.

Initially due to report on 14 August 2018, the Senate approved an extension of time yesterday. The Committee is now due to report on 26 November and further public hearings are in the pipeline. The inquiry matters include:

  1. The prevalence of overweight and obesity among children in Australia and changes in these rates over time;
  2. The causes of the rise in overweight and obesity in Australia;
  3. The short- and long-term harm to health associated with obesity, particularly in children in Australia;
  4. The short- and long-term economic burden of obesity, particularly related to obesity in children in Australia;
  5. The effectiveness of existing policies and programs introduced by Australian governments to improve diets and prevent childhood obesity;
  6. Evidence-based measures and interventions to prevent and reverse childhood obesity, including experiences from overseas jurisdictions;
  7. The role of the food industry in contributing to poor diets and childhood obesity in Australia; and
  8. Any other related matters.

One of the lines of discussion is the potential for a sugar tax on food and beverages in Australia and benefits of such a tax as a government intervention to address obesity. Despite assurances Ai Group has received from both sides of Government that a sugar tax is not one of their policies, there is considerable support for it, along with other regulatory interventions, from health and consumer advocates.

The Australian confectionery industry shares the widespread concerns about overweight and obesity in Australia (and elsewhere) and believes there are are more effective measures than a tax. We have signalled the need for a collaborative and coordinated, multi-stakeholder, government-led response, with education being an important place to start so consumers can be suitably empowered to make healthy food choices appropriate for their needs.

For our part, the confectionery industry offers treat foods for special occasions that can be enjoyed in moderation in the context of a healthy balanced diet. Confectionery treats can add variety and enjoyment in the diet – sometimes and in small amounts – in accordance with the Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG). This is the way they are intended to be consumed.

The industry’s Be treatwise program, established more than a decade ago, aims to ensure consumers continue to understand confectionery’s role as a treat food in a healthy diet, alongside physical activity. Responsible consumption, together with responsible marketing, is embodied in the Be treatwise message. Be treatwise speaks to moderation, balance, portion size, frequency, dietary and oral health and the importance of being physical active.

A copy of the Ai Group Confectionery Sector’s submission is available here.

Click here for more information on the Senate inquiry

About Be treatwise

Be treatwise® is an industry initiative to provide consumers with information to help explain the place of confectionery, as a treat food, that can be enjoyed as part of a healthy balanced diet and active lifestyle. The Be treatwise® symbol is a visual cue (Figure 1) on the front of confectionery packs to remind consumers that confectionery is a treat.  Responsible marketing, together with responsible consumption, is embodied in the Be treatwise® message.  This includes from dietary energy intake, to oral health and the importance of being physically active.



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Jennifer Thompson has been Ai Group’s Technical & Regulatory Manager for the Confectionery Sector since October 2009. Prior to joining Ai Group, Jennifer spent 17 years at the Confectionery Manufacturers of Australasia Limited (CMA). She also worked for five years in NSW politics and had stints at the Australian Wool Corporation and in the UK banking and mining sectors.

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