Obesity,Diets#Eating Disorders#Bullying#Fat Acceptance#Please Share
The New South Wales Government is getting tough on the obesity epidemic, forcing fast food outlets to label the kilojoule content of their foods.
It's a decision that is clearly popular with consumers and, one hopes, should go someway towards improving public health.
If you think these outlets seem to be popping up all over the place, you'd hardly be wrong.
Last year, 3.7 billion meals were served up at restaurants in Australia, nearly half were from the 16,000 fast food outlets that operate across the country, with a third in New South Wales.
Australians like to poke fun at Americans and their love affair with fatty foods but over the past 10 years, the consumption of fast foods in Australia has doubled.
Disturbingly, half of all adults are now overweight or obese and one in four kids also has serious weight problems and consequently are at major risk of chronic health problems including:
With so many people eating out these days, the Heart Foundation says one of key problems is that people simply don't know what they're consuming and thus aren't able to make healthier choices.
The Heart Foundation has been pleasantly surprised by government's response to the problem.
"When I wrote to the Premier earlier this year suggesting that we look at this issue, I didn't expect we'd get as far as we have today," its NSW President Tony Thirlwell said.
Kristina Keneally has announced that a 12-month trial will begin on February 1 2011.
"NSW will be the first state to require quick service restaurants to display kilojoule count on their menu boards," she said.
To help consumers make sense of those numbers, restaurants will also have to display the average daily adult kilojoule intake so that,
according to the Premier, consumers "are able to make a choice not just
based on the impact on their hip pocket but also on their hips and
Initially, the Heart Foundation wanted salt and saturated fat listed as well.
As expected, the major fast food chains such as McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Hungry Jacks, Oporto and Red Rooster put up some strong resistance.
They ended up settling on the current plan.
That has left Ms Keneally open for some criticism from the Greens' David Shoebridge.
"The NSW Government and the Premier have given in to the fast food industry by not regulating to ensure parents and consumers see the fats and the salts in the food they buy," he said.
McDonalds' chief Catriona Noble says she is open to the idea but has pointed out that "the information on salt and saturated fat is right now available on the website and the packaging".
The additional information on the menu board could be impractical.
The boards are already packed full of information and adding more risks overwhelming and confusing consumers who may then tune out altogether on the health impacts of what they're eating.
The kilojoule proposal is a welcome move towards encouraging people to make healthier choices about what they eat and even force the major chains to make improvements to their menus.
It could very well work, based on my not very scientific survey of McDonalds consumers.
"Having it up there for me would be a tremendous benefit because I'm trying to watch what I'm eating these days," one said.
Another commented that "it gives you a choice of whether you get the healthier lower fat or the higher fat."
"It won't make me stop [coming] but it'll make me think about what I'm feeding the children when I'm here," said another customer.
The overseas evidence is encouraging with studies in the United States showing that parents are using this 'point-of-sale' information to feed their kids food with 428kj less that they would otherwise.
The government's trial is a sensible move.
It's a relief that it seems to have the overwhelming support of the fast food industry.
It's yet another piece in the armoury to battle the obesity epidemic.
Time for a little Shared Accountability.