Some of Australia's biggest food companies have joined forces via the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) to launch an initiative to significantly reduce fat, sodium and calories from diets in the country.
Under the terms of this voluntary agreement, named the Healthier Australia Commitment, companies representing more than a quarter of the domestic food and grocery industry have agreed on a series of reduction targets that they aim to achieve by 2015.
First, the companies, including Unilever, Nestlé, Coca-Cola and Campbell Arnotts, will set out to reduce saturated fat in products by 25%, adding up to the equivalent of over 3m kg of saturated fat removed from the food supply.
At the same time, they plan to reduce sodium in products by the same proportion, thereby removing the equivalent of over 270,000kg of sodium from the food supply.
The initiative also comes with a commitment to reduce energy-dense, nutrient-poor products by 12.5%—or over 100bn kJ removed from the food supply.
Slowing down preventable diseases
Professor Peter Clifton, head of nutritional interventions at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, said the 2015 targets could significantly help improve the nutritional quality of the Australian diet.
“In Australia, the rates of chronic preventable diseases like obesity, Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease are high, putting a strain on our health system. There are many factors that contribute to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet is one of those, hence the changes the industry is making could have a positive impact on Australia’s health,” he said.
Susan Kevork, Nestlé’s head nutritionist, said that the initiative was as much a drive for individuals to adopt healthier eating practices as it was CSR for the company and its counterparts.
“It is not just about improving the nutrition of the products companies like Nestlé make, but it’s also about helping the community understand the importance of healthy eating and physical activity, and giving them the tools to make this happen,” she said
Bringing the community on board
Echoing this, AFGC’s chief executive, Gary Dawson, said he has invited health groups, community associations and professional bodies to participate.
“Product innovation is just one pillar of the Healthier Australia Commitment, but a holistic approach combining diet and exercise is needed to address the health of Australia. We see the benefit in building alliances with other partners to help us meet these challenges,” he said.
Families can plug into the initiative through an online platform (www.togethercounts.com.au) to learn more about energy balance. This is based on the Michelle Obama-supported Together Counts Program in America.”