Plain packaging and graphic images considered for food

The recent controversial packaging changes to tobacco products are now being considered for junk foods, in an effort to curb Australia's growing obesity problem.

At today's Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology convention, a panel of food science, manufacturing and nutrition experts will discuss whether plain packaging and graphic images on junk food packaging would have any impact on Australians' growing waistlines.

The new Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology president, Anne Astin, said plain packaging may have to be considered in the future if the incidence of lifestyle-related diseases continues to grow.

According to the Australian, Astin said the Institute doesn't have an official position on junk food labelling, but hopes today's convention will be the starting point for an industry-wide conversation on the matter.

"There has to be a multi-faceted approach, and the problem can't be fixed by regulation only – there needs to be enormous emphasis placed on education, and part of that is having information on food packages," she said.

However changes to junk food packaging are already being knocked back by government.

A spokesperson for Queensland health minister Lawrence Springborg said an $8m anti-obesity campaign had been in place since February, but added his office wouldn't consider other changes in the short term.

A spokeperson for federal health minister, Tanya Plibersek, echoed Queensland's hesitation, confirming the federal government won't consider changes to food packaging any time soon.

There's also concerns that graphic images on food packaging may contribute to eating disorders.

Dietitians Associations of Australia spokesman Alan Barclay described the proposed changes as extreme and said, "Treating foods like poison sets people up for disordered eating, and we shouldn't be treating food as good or bad. The definition of junk food is problematic – we all know what it means, but how would you pin it down?"

Just last month food and health ministers in Sydney approved a new star rating system aimed at making it easier for consumers to make healthier purchasing decisions.

The Health Star Rating has been designed to replace the Daily Intake Guide system, and will be adopted by food companies on a voluntary basis.

It will be similar to the energy efficiency star rating system for whitegoods and will see highly nutritious processed foods given more stars, while those foods lacking nutritional value will have fewer stars.


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