Specifically, the objectives of the Policy Think Tank were to:
- share and consider the findings of a rapid review on regulatory approaches to address childhood obesity;
- increase understanding of the Food Regulation Policy Framework and the full range of food regulatory system options available (regulatory, co-regulatory, voluntary and codes of practice);
- explore and critique other potential actions, including creative ideas from participants; and
- prioritise potential actions that could be further considered subject to consultation with broader stakeholders including food industry and consumer groups.
Rapid Review: Food Regulatory Approaches to Address Childhood Obesity (PDF 589 KB)
Rapid Review: Food Regulatory Approaches to Address Childhood Obesity (Word 477 KB)
The summary report from the Policy Think Tank has also been published.
Opportunities for the food regulation system to support obesity prevention: Insights from a public health policy think tank - Summary Report (PDF 214 KB)
Opportunities for the food regulation system to support obesity prevention: Insights from a public health policy think tank - Summary Report (Word 611 KB)
Four key themes emerged from the Policy Think Tank where participants felt future effort could be directed in the short to medium term to support obesity prevention within the scope of the food regulatory system. These were:
- clearer definitions of unhealthy (discretionary) food
- food reformulation and portion sizes
- Health Star Rating (HSR) system improvements
- marketing restrictions for unhealthy (discretionary) foods
- The Australian Government Department of Health has commissioned the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to review the evidence and reports about consumer, clinician educator and industry understanding of the current ‘discretionary’ food category associated with the Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADGs). NHMRC will report on possible definitions of discretionary food and drinks suggested by the review that could support the Australian Dietary Guidelines and be tested further in consultation activities and be used in a range of policy contexts.
- The Healthy Food Partnership continues to progress reformulation and portion size activities. Under the Partnership, the Food Reformulation Working Group has developed reformulation targets for manufactured food sold through retail and food service. Effective portion size strategies are being considered by the Portion Size Working Group. The Food Service Working Group is considering simple and effective voluntary industry commitments (‘pledges’) designed to optimise the nutritional profile of food and beverages provided in food service settings, with consideration to placement and promotion of healthier options; portion sizes; product reformulation; and availability of information for consumers.
- A formal five-year review of the HSR system is currently being undertaken. The five year review is considering if, and how well, the objectives of the HSR system have been met and will identify options for improvements to the ongoing implementation of the system. Some of the specific issues being considered include the scope of the system, how the HSR algorithm treats particular nutrients such as sugar and protein, specific product issues; ongoing governance structures; and whether the HSR should be mandatory. A draft of the review report will be made available for public comment in early 2019, with a final report to be delivered to the Forum mid-2019.
- A HSR symposium will be held in September 2019 to consider opportunities to embed the HSR in a range of public health policies and programs and settings beyond the retail sale of processed packaged foods.
- The work of the COAG Health Council in improving children’s health by limiting the promotion and availability of unhealthy food and drinks is ongoing. In addition to strengthening collaboration between health and food regulation (and hence hosting the Policy Think Tank and HSR symposium), other actions being undertaken include:
- School-based efforts to encourage and support healthy eating;
- Improving food and drinks associated with children’s sport and recreation;
- Developing tools to inform food promotion to children in Government settings such as education and sport and recreation; and
- Strengthening approaches to limiting the availability of sugar-sweetened drinks and unhealthy food in public healthcare facilities.
- A number of food labelling issues are being considered by the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) in relation to improving labelling information to support consumers to make informed choices in relation to the recommendations in the Australian Dietary Guidelines and New Zealand Eating and Activity Guidelines. Issues being considered include labelling of sugars, labelling of fats and oils and energy labelling on alcoholic beverages.