Private Label will damage our business: Four ‘N’ Twenty pie maker

The supermarket price wars have had many victims, and the latest to be impacted by the ruthless competition that is squeezing food companies out of business is iconic Aussie pie maker Four ‘N’ Twenty.

Yesterday the makers of Four ‘N’ Twenty pies, Patties Foods, which also manufactures Herbert Adams and Nanna’s brands, said the increase in private label will hurt its business, mostly likely beginning this year.

The pie maker predicts that in the second half of 2012, it will face much tougher trading conditions, as private label offering from Woolworths and Coles increase in numbers, pushing established brands off the shelves.

Both supermarkets have confirmed plans to rapidly increase private label products in the coming years, and as they do so, other manufacturers are seeing their products moved from prime positions on shelves, and disappearing altogether.

Very few manufacturers will speak on the record about the impact of the supermarket price wars, for fear their deletion from shelves will be speeded up if they do.

Even the Senate Inquiry investigating the power of the big two struggled to get people to speak, which is indicative of the power they wield over manufacturers and suppliers.

The few who will speak either speak out anonymously, or once they can no longer be punished, as was the case with the exiting chief executive of the Wine Federation Australia, Stephen Strachan, criticised the supermarkets’ power only when he had stepped down from the post.

''If you're an individual company that speaks out against them or says anything publicly that criticises their tactics, they would have no hesitation in giving you a holiday from their shelves and that is what's creating a culture of fear and compliance in the industry,'' Strachan said.

''Whenever I've made comments in the press, I could only talk about retailers in a generic sense, but they [Coles and Woolworths] would religiously follow up on those comments and make it known they were displeased.”

The recent Food Magazine Leaders Summit also came up against the same issues.

We invited food manufacturers and other food companies to participate in the day, aimed to identify the main issues in the industry and work towards improvement, but when it became known that the impact of the supermarket dominance would be discussed on the day, dozens refused to come, for fear of the retributions of being associated with anything discussing such issues.

Despite the pressure from the supermarkets, Patties has managed to continue to grow, mainly due to other more traditional pie outlets.

The company expects the 2012 financial year will deliver a net profit of between $19.2 million and $19.7 million, up from $18.4 in 2011.

Second-half net profit will almost definitely remain the same as the same period last year, however, showing the beginning of a decline in profits.

When Patties Foods released its 2012 first-half results it expected that, despite the difficult conditions, it was still expecting improved profits for the second half.

"The second half saw increasing pressure on margins in the In Home (supermarket) channel, particularly with the continued growth of private label products,” Patties said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).

Managing director Greg Bourke said the company has been working hard on driving strong sales growth, and has increased manufacturing efficiencies maintained tight control over costs to achieve its results.

Mashed potato from a Slurpee machine…really?

The latest on the list of ‘Weird Slurpee flavours’ is not actually a version of the famous icy drink…it’s mashed potato.

That’s right, in Singapore you can now get mashed potato, plus gravy, from a Slurpee machine in about a minute. And it only costs a dollar.

To be honest, here at Food Mag HQ, we reckon it’s surprising that it’s taken this long to come up with this idea. After all, powdered mash has been around for decades, and Slurpee machines are no spring chickens.

It really should have happened sooner, but perhaps all the smart people who come up with this sort of stuff were off doing something important, like curing cancer or something.

Check out the video, but fair warning, the gravy bit may put you off your lunch, even if it’s not mashed potato.

Would you eat mash and gravy from a Slurpee machine?


“Dictatorchip” over: Olympic committee overturns ban on non-Maccas chips

The Olympic Committee has overturned a ban on outlets at the games serving chips, which was deemed to be a breach of the sponsorship deal with McDonald’s.

The fast food chain, and its famous fries, won a fight last week to ban all other chips being served on their own.

McDonald’s demanded that they could be the only ones to serve chips at any Olympic venue and that the other 800 Olympic eateries could sell chips only when served with fish.

The other outlets were immediately up in arms over the decision, and a sign in a catering area in the Olympic Park made their displeasure obvious.

 "Please understand this is not the decision of the staff who are serving up your meals who, given the choice, would gladly give it to you, however they are not allowed to,” the sign read.

“Please do not give the staff grief, this will only lead to us removing fish and chips completely."

Now the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) has announced that it has overturned the decision, with a spokesman confirming the "dictatorchip" has been brought to an end and chips can now be served alongside chicken, pies and on their own.

"It's sorted," he said.

"We have spoken to McDonald's about it."

“Say no to crap” campaign encourages eating more fresh produce

A leading representative group for the produce industry has taken an interesting angle in its campaign to encourage people to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.

PMA Australia and New Zealand (PMA A-NZ) has launched its new slogan, “Say no to crap,” as part of its wider campaign “It’s Time- Get Real.”

The campaign also promotes fresh produce as “real value, real easy, real fast.”

At the PMA Fresh Connections 2012 in Melbourne, delegates were shown parts of the initiative, which will include posters, slogans and feature local community members who have improved their health by eating fresh produce.

The association is looking for ways to use shock value to educate people about the importance of eating fresh produce, and another suggested media stunt included dumping a load of sugar in the main street of a regional town, in a bid to demonstrate the 22 tonnes of sugar consumed by a population of 100,000 in processed food everyday.

Chief executive of PMA A-NZ, Michael Worthington explained that on average, Australians spend only $10 a week on fresh produce, as compared to the much higher amount spent on unhealthier foods, and organisation wanted to go with something that was simple yet provocative to get its message across.

“Consumers know that eating fruit and veg is good for them.

"They don’t have to be told that, we don’t have to keep pushing that down their throats,” he said.

“They all know that they should be eating more fruits and vegetables.

“We know that they don’t like to be preached to, they don’t like to be lectured to, so whatever you do, you’ve got to instil self ownership, self responsibility about this.”

Worthington explained that the media saturation about the apparent benefits of certain foods – “superfoods,” for example –  has confused people too much, so a simple message was the only way to get through to consumers.

Worthington stressed that the campaigns including the Go for Two and Five were still important.

Duck supplier headed for court over misleading ‘free range’ claims

Australia’s largest duck producer is being sued for misleading advertising which claimed the birds were raised in ‘open range’ farms.

Activists filmed the birds at Pepe’s Ducks, showing not only that they were crammed into metal crates, but also that some of them were covered in faeces and had their wings stuck in the metal grates, despite labelling claiming they were “grown nature’s way.”

The label also featured a duck walking across expansive land towards a pond, indicating the animals were raised in such environments.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has slammed the company for the false advertising, demanding correction notices be published and an injunction against Pepe’s Ducks using the free range labels again for the next three years.

In the writ filed in the Federal Court on Monday, it said Pepe's Ducks contravened trade laws by advertising their duck meat as ''Grown Nature's Way'' and indicating that the ducks ''were allowed to spend at least a substantial amount of their time with access to an outdoor body of water … foraging for food outdoors'', and were of better quality than barn-raised ducks when ''that was not the case''.

Animal Liberation’s Emma Hurst welcomed the suggestions from the ACCC and also called on the RSPCA to urgently investigate the welfare conditions at another leading Victorian supplier, Luv-a-Duck.

''There are equal concerns for the welfare of ducks that are kept at Luv-a-Duck,'' she said.

''We are seeing ducks on their backs, we're seeing ducks smattered with waste, and we are seeing issues such as crusty-eye, which is caused by the fact that the ducks can't dip their eyes in water, so the eye actually cakes over with dirt.

“They can't adequately clean themselves and that can lead to blindness.''

Pictures of ducks in distress, which Hurst said were taken at Luv-A-Duck's farms, should be taken seriously, she said.

But the company has hit back, saying it should be left alone because it does not claim its ducks are free-range.

The shocking conditions the animals are kept in were uncovered earlier this year when Animal Liberation sent footage to the ACCC.

Pepe's Ducks slaughters more than 70 000 birds every week and the founder was runner-up farmer of the year in the New South Wales Farmers Association in 2010.

The incident follows similar issues in the chicken industry earlier this year, when national suppliers were also accused of misleading consumers by claiming they were ‘free to roam.’

Farmers and suppliers who produce actual free range eggs called for a crackdown on the definitions of ‘free range, following the discovery of the false claims.

Image: Pepe Bonaccordo, founder of Pepe's Ducks.
NSW Farmers.


Campbell’s Soup buys produce company for $1.55 billion

Campbell Soup has acquired US fruit and vegetable company Bolthouse Farms for $1.55 billion in cash.

The famous soup company acquired Bolthouse Farms from a fund managed by Madison Dearborn Partners LLC, a private equity firm.

Bolthouse was founded in 1915, and is a vertically integrated food and beverage company offering fresh produce – primarily carrots – and vegetable-based premium beverages and a growing presence in refrigerated salad dressings.

The acquisition of the Californian-based company will give Campbell a new platform in packaged fresh foods, and add to Campbell’s V8 beverage business.

Campbell’s is looking to increase its healthy beverage sales to  $1.2 billion annually.

“Bolthouse is a great strategic fit with Campbell,” Denise Morrison, Campbell’s president and chief executive said.

“Its business platforms, capabilities and culture are well aligned with the core growth strategies we announced last year.

“Its strong position in the high-growth packaged fresh category complements our chilled soup business in North America, and offers exciting opportunities for expansion into adjacent packaged fresh segments that respond directly to powerful consumer trends.”

Campbell will operate Bolthouse Farms as a separate business unit and  Bolthouse’s senior management team, including President and chief executive Jeff Dunn, will remain with the company, reporting directly to Morrison.

The acquisition is expected to be finalised in late August.

Industry-sponsored self-regulation: it’s just not cricket

OBESE NATION: It’s time to admit it – Australia is becoming an obese nation. This series looks at how this has happened and more importantly, what we can do to stop the obesity epidemic.

Today Rob Moodie and Kate Taylor talk about how little the Australian government is doing to stop the epidemic while Kerin O'Dea considers measures that could work.

The world keeps getting fatter and no country has yet successfully managed to reduce adult rates of overweight and obesity. Rates are levelling in a few countries – sometimes at low levels as in Japan, Korea, and Switzerland and sometimes at levels comparable to Australia, as in Hungary and England. Australia has also seen instances of flattening in trends (but at high levels) in pre-school children, but adult rates continue to rise.


Country Year Prevalence %
USA 2008 33.8
Mexico 2006 30
Scotland 2008 27
New Zealand 2007 26.5
Ireland 2007 25
Australia 2007 24.5
Canada 2008 24.2
England 2009 23
Ranked rates of measured obesity 2010


Countering obesity should be a government priority, because excess weight creates a significant drag on countries’ health budgets and productivity. And the role governments can play was the focus of a recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter. The report outlines key policy actions to improve health and nutrition.

They include:

  • Taxing unhealthy food, including soft drink, and subsidising fruit and vegetables;

  • Regulating foods high in saturated fats, salt and sugar;

  • Regulating to reduce unhealthy food advertising to children, as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Interventions like these are important because they protect the most vulnerable in society – the poorest and the young.

Local efforts

In Australia, the Preventative Health Taskforce has provided a blueprint for action against obesity. It recognised governments' key role in reducing unhealthy food marketing to children, improving labelling, and investigating tax and pricing strategies.


Click here to open in new window or republish.


Sadly, such measures have yet to be implemented or seriously considered. Rather, the government has focused on elements such as policies in children’s settings around food supply and active play, funding for community interventions and social marketing campaigns – all softer options favoured in the political satire, The Hollowmen.

At the same time, there’s been a focus on partnership with industry. While this is important, it has also led to a clear reluctance to leverage regulatory and fiscal measures because of lobbying by the many industries that profit from high and growing consumption of their products.

This is a significant lost opportunity because tax and pricing measures result in the largest health gains in the shortest time frame. Australian research has shown that they are also the most cost-effective interventions, with a 10% tax resulting in large health gains, particularly for low-income groups. A number of countries – including Denmark, Hungary, Finland, and France – have legislated to tax fat or sugar.

Labelling of packaged food has also been considered. Former health minister Dr Neal Blewett led a review that recommended traffic-light labelling on the front of packs, among other things. In a surprising move, however, the Australian government argued that there was not enough evidence to justify this system.


A number of countries have legislated for a fat tax. Jun Seita


Instead, it has established a working group of food industry and public health organisations to develop options for an alternative scheme. Yes Minister, anyone? It appears we haven’t learnt anything from Europe, where industry spent more than one billion Euros fighting against traffic light labelling.

One of the key battlegrounds in Australia remains unhealthy food marketing to children, a major driver in normalising poor diets for life. With marketing becoming increasingly sophisticated and integrated over a range of platforms, direct targeting of children and adolescents is easier and cheaper than ever before. And social media makes it ever more effective. Advertisements masquerading as games, for instance, are increasingly popular, moving from television to the internet into mobile phone apps.

The dangers of self-regulation

This is what is happening under government-endorsed, industry-formulated self-regulation – marketers are way ahead of any weak, industry-sponsored controls. Despite calls for a national approach, the Australian Communications and Media Authority and Australian health ministers have treated the issue as a hot potato, currently vesting responsibility with the Australian National Preventative Health Agency. This group has been asked to do yet another review of the evidence, organise a seminar and undertake some monitoring. At best we might see stronger self-regulation.

All over the world, governments fear the power of the many industries associated with the obesity epidemic. It’s not just the producers, manufacturers and retail giants, but also the advertisers, public relations companies and media. All have major economic interests in marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages, including alcoholic drinks.


Numerous industries have economic interests in marketing unhealthy foods and beverages. Tom Lawrence


And, of course, a country as interested in sport as Australia also has to contend with powerful bodies, such as Cricket Australia, who benefit from the sponsorship of junk food companies and from the money made by leading players who relentlessly promote such products to Australian children. In this light, the recent move by the government working with a range of sporting groups to reduce the influence of alcohol should be welcomed and expanded.

We have a lot of experience in good public health policy we could build on. Successive Australian governments have strong records in tobacco control, particularly the current government. It must use these experiences in its efforts to drive down overweight and obesity. It’s unfortunate but unavoidable that the long-term benefits of managing obesity require taking a political stand in the short term. The action the government is taking on tobacco is tremendous. We need similar determination in the face of the obesity epidemic.

This is part fifteen of our series Obese Nation. To read the other instalments, follow the links below:

Part one: Mapping Australia’s collective weight gain

Part two: Explainer: overweight, obese, BMI – what does it all mean?

Part three: Explainer: how does excess weight cause disease?

Part four: Recipe for disaster: creating a food supply to suit the appetite

Part five: What’s economic growth got to do with expanding waistlines?

Part six: Preventing weight gain: the dilemma of effective regulation

Part seven: Filling the regulatory gap in chronic disease prevention

Part eight: Why a fat tax is not enough to tackle the obesity problem

Part nine: Education, wealth and the place you live can affect your weight

Part ten: Innovative strategies needed to address Indigenous obesity

Part eleven: Two books, one big issue: Why Calories Count and Weighing In

Part twelve: Putting health at the heart of sustainability policy

Part thirteen: Want to stop the obesity epidemic? Let’s get moving

Part fourteen: Fat of the land: how urban design can help curb obesity

Part sixteen: Regulation and legislation as tools in the battle against obesity

Rob Moodie receives funding from Department of Health and Ageing.

K Taylor declares no conflicts of interest.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Coles warehouse strike to impact supply

As a strike at a Coles warehouse enters its second day, experts have warned the impact will take less than a week to impact supply to supermarkets.

About 600 workers are striking at the Somerton warehouse in Melbourne’s north, calling for improvements to working conditions including shift lengths and the accumulating rostered days off (RDO’s).

The workers say their working conditions are worse than those at all other Coles warehouses.

Victorian supermarkets will start to see a decrease in the availability of products including toilet paper, beer and toothpaste.

"I think you will see an impact at about the six-day mark, there could be empty shelves," National Union of Workers state secretary Tim Kennedy told the Herald Sun 

"If they do run out of beer then they will probably start talking to us."

Imported beer brands including Heinekin, Corona and Becks could be affected, he said.

Coles, which has stood down hundreds of workers at the distribution centre, argues that the action is unlawful, and has lodged an application with Fair Work Australia this morning, The Age reports.

The supply impact of the strike will spread, Coles predicts in its application.

"The company believes that industrial action will spread to all three sites," Coles said in the application.

Coles has apparently spent millions of dollars on trying to lessen the impact of the strike by sending products to other warehouses, but workers at the Somerton warehouse say they are determined to continue the action until they get a response.

"Most consumers will not take the risk to go to a Coles supermarket now in the belief that things may not be there," Kennedy told reporters at the warehouse.

"They'll probably go to the competition, so it will have a significant effect on sales for Coles."

Workers began their strike outside the plant at 6am Tuesday and braved the rain and freezing conditions last night to continue their fight.

The union said it was set to speak with Toll management which manages workforce issues at the site later on Tuesday.

Christopher Whitefield , spokesman for Toll Management, which manages workforce issues at the site, said the company had offered a four per cent pay rise, which is higher than similar work sites.

"In order to keep attracting and retaining the best people, Toll will continue to balance the needs of the business to remain competitive within the industry," Whitefield said in a statement.

What do you think of the workers' strike? Is impacting the supply to stores the only way to get the attention they need?

Accessing the market with innovation

Over 60 years ago, expert psychologist Abraham Maslow developed the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, a crucial breakthrough for understanding human behaviour and requirements, and it is still used today.

The most important of the needs outlined in his pyramid are the ‘Basic,’ or ‘Physiological’ needs: food, water, shelter and warmth.

Basically, the things essential to keep you alive.

But why is this relevant to packaging? Because what we’re talking about here is how everyone gets some of these most important requirements.

If a person can’t open the package to consume food or water to keep them alive, it is more than a little problem.

Without being dramatic about this, it is a matter of life and death, or at the very least nutrition.

Even the most able-bodies and healthy people know the frustration of not being able to open a package, whether it be food or electronic goods or a packet of pens.

But for an increasing number of Australians, the ability to open many packages is impossible.

“In packaging, there has been a shift towards portion control items andsmaller pack sizes.

“Statistics show that there are 6.4 million people with arthritis or a disability in Australia, seven million people are 50-plus, 1.7 million have problems with their eyesight,” Fergal Barry from Arthritis Australia told Food Magazine.

“If you combine the over-50’s with the number of people with arthritis or a disability, that means one in two are facing some kind of restriction with opening packages.”

“When you to open a jar if pickles, for example, you’re actually performing several tasks at once.

“You’ve got to pick it up and hold it, so the weight and shape of the jar impacts that.

Then there’s the friction, if it’s damp for example, it might be more difficult to hold.

“Then there is the labelling and font size and the effectiveness with how messages are communicated.

“And then the lid!

“The width and the depth of the lid will come into play, as will breaking the seal and resealing it.

“So because it is a combination of tasks, it becomes more difficult.”

Dealing with an ageing population

Our ageing population is growing quicker than medical and assistance services can keep up with, and a recent report found that more than 40 per cent of older Australians living in community housing are “malnourished or at risk of malnourishment.”

Much of this malnourishment can be attributed to the quality of food elderly Australians have access to, how easily they can prepare it, but most importantly, if they can open the packaging it comes in.

And it’s not only in their homes that elderly people are struggling to open food packaging, with those in hospitals often not much better off, as Jacky Nordsvan, Packaging Specialist at Nestlé, told Food Magazine.

“The report by the health services basically showed that poor ease-of-use food packaging is a significant contributor to malnourished elderly in public hospitals,” she said.

“Particularly in public hospitals, where the food is bought in packaged meals, this obviously makes it more difficult for patients to feed themselves.

Nestlé is leading with way in accessible food packaging, to address the needs of not only elderly Australians, but everyone who has ever struggled to get a package opened.

“As they get older, people are less likely to want to ask people to do stuff for you, so it is a real problem we need to address.”

This is where a bunch of Maslow’s other needs on his hierarchy come into play, including safety needs on the rung up from the most basic of needs, all the way up through the self-esteem needs including achievement and respect, to self actualisation needs at the top of the pyramid, which includes talent and fulfilment.

When you look at it like this, and think that packaging is often overlooked by the majority of society, it makes you realise that more has to be done in this market.

1 in 2 Australians struggles to access packaging

“It’s not just focused on that [elderly] part of the population, anything that is hard to open that we can make easier is good for all consumers,” Nordsvan said.

“The reason we’re seen as leaders in the area is because at a packaging conference a couple of years ago, we laid out our packaging and asked people if they could open it and they could use their hands or a knife of hammer and we even had a little mannequin of a husband when it got that hopeless and I think that had our packaging reps been there they would have been mortified about how hard it was.”

Nestlé is one of the partners in Arthritis Australia’s mission to improve packaging accessibility, which Barry points out is about more than just getting a package opened.

“The British use the term ‘openability,’ but I think it suggests by its very nature that it is just about opening packaging, whereas the term we use, ‘accessibility’, is much broader than that,” he said.

“There is more to ‘accessibility,’ there is the openability requirement, which is about being able to open a package.

“There’s the labelling, and people’s ability to read messages and other communications, and lastly the cognitive elements, which is the ability for the consumer to understand messages.”

The collaboration of Arthritis Australia, NSW Health and a number of other manufacturers is a huge step forward for not only developing accessible packaging, but making consumers aware of the importance of doing so.

Fighting for a spot

With all the mandatory information, such as nutritional guides and ingredient lists, added to the essential marketing aspects, on packages which are frequently being cut down to create portion-sized offerings, it’s very crowded place these days.

Add to that the pressures of the high Australian dollar and its impact on exports as well as the strain placed on companies through the supermarket price wars, and you have a very competitive, difficult situation for manufacturers and suppliers.

But if companies are willing to innovate their packaging, like Nestlé has, they will find that they have an extra selling point in the market.

While there will be some costs to changing current packaging to make it accessible, Nordsvan explained that the most crucial way to cut those costs is to consider these needs in the design stages, not when it has been launched and problems identified.

“If you put the consumer in the front of your mind when designing packaging, it is a driver for innovation and when we compare designs, we come up with improvements,” Barry explained to Food Magazine.

“For manufacturers and brand owners in this country with private label increasing in the way that it is, how do you compete with China on cost in Australia?

“We have the Accessibility Benchmark Scale which ranks packaging from a plus eight to minus eight, so if a supermarket is trying to decide between two companies supplying private label packaging, and these isn’t much difference on food quality or price, but the packaging is higher on the accessibility scale, it could win the contract.”

“Now you can say ‘ours is a plus-six and there is a plus-two so ours is far easier to open and will make more sales because unlike us, they have already eliminated parts of the market.’

“It could be your brand that gets deleted from shelves.

“Failure to act when the competition is innovating will lose you the business.

“It will help win business for some, but it will lose it for others.

“And if anyone is sitting there saying ‘that won’t happen,’ well it already is.”


Fat of the land: how urban design can help curb obesity

OBESE NATION: It’s time to admit it – Australia is becoming an obese nation. This series looks at how this has happened and more importantly, what we can do to stop the obesity epidemic.

Here Billie Giles-Corti and Carolyn Whitzman discuss ways to change our obesogenic environment through urban design while Jo Salmon looks at the role physical activity and exercise play in healthy lifestyles.

Compared with our grandparents, feeding, clothing, and entertaining ourselves has never been easier: a one-stop weekly shopping centre trip in a car, facilitated by convenient parking and light-weight maneuverable shopping trolleys that allow us to whiz around the supermarket with ease.

In fact, these days people don’t even need to leave home to do their food shopping, order takeaway food, bank or pay bills, shop for clothing or household goods, “visit” with their friends, read the newspaper or amuse themselves. Using the internet or telephone, activities that used to involve some level of activity or a short walk, can be done with “anywhere, anytime” convenience.


The internet and telephone have made life easy but it's not all good news. teoruiz/Flickr


If we couple this lifestyle of convenience with a media environment that advertises and provides an attractive array of easily-accessed, low-cost and tasty, high-fat, high-sugar foods – it’s not surprising that obesity is such a huge problem.

Australia is one of the global leaders in the obesity epidemic, with two-thirds of Australian adults and a quarter of Australian children, overweight or obese. Alarm bells are ringing in health circles about the impact this will have on all the major preventable diseases: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. These diseases will get worse unless we can help people maintain a consistent belt size throughout their life.

Poor diet, lack of physical activity and other sedentary behaviours are the main culprits in the obesity epidemic. People choose how active they are and what they eat. But their local environments – their neighbourhood, local parks and streets, as well as their homes, workplaces and schools – provide opportunities and barriers that affect those choices.

There’s widespread agreement that we’ve created obesogenic environments that encourage both inactivity and overeating. So what can be done about it?


People are more likely to walk and cycle if they live in safe, compact, pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods. Marionzetta/Flickr


For a start, we could improve neighbourhood design to get people out of their cars and onto the streets. People are more likely to walk and cycle if they live in safe, compact, pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods characterised by connected street networks, access to nearby destinations such as shops and parks, mixed uses of building such as housing above shops, and high population density.

People living in the suburban sprawl walk less, drive more, and spend more time in sedentary pursuits, such as watching television or cruising on the internet, than those living in compact, pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods. We need to plan services in new communities so that schools, shops, public transport, and parks arrive at the same time as housing – so that residents can develop good walking, cycling and public transport habits from the outset.

At the same time, we need to share the resources available in established suburbs closer to the city where there’s already good access to parks, jobs, and public transport. This means increasing the number of people who live in inner-city suburbs and giving more people access to existing shops and services.

We also need to think about quality and access to open space: parks, ovals, play grounds, and school grounds. The way open space is designed gives people cues about how it is to be used – is this open space simply for vandals and hoons, or does it say to local residents (regardless of age), “this space is open for active business, come and join in”?


The way open space is designed gives people cues about how it is to be used. Grant MacDonald


Similarly, we need to make the most of what’s called “blue space” – waterways, such as creeks, lakes, rivers and beach fronts. We know that in wealthy areas, blue spaces are opened up and invite the public to be active with walking and cycling paths, but is this true in lower-income areas?

There’s growing evidence that people who drive long distances to work are more likely to gain weight. Reducing commute times would not only be good for the environment, it would also be good for our waistlines – particularly if it involved walking or cycling to rapid public transport. This requires the right types of jobs to be available locally – what type of local business activation models could assist?

We need to give people choices so that healthy options are easy to pick – in neighbourhoods, schools and workplaces. Policies ensuring there’s plenty of fruit, water, and healthy take-away food – not just high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar alternatives – give people the opportunity to make healthier choices.

Providing access to community garden spaces encourages children and adults to develop a love of fresh food has the potential to have a positive impact on our waistlines too.


Community gardens encourage people to develop a love of fresh food. RDPixelShop/Flickr


And we need to think carefully, as a community, about how happy we are about the way unhealthy food is marketed and actively promoted so readily to children and young people. This normalises unhealthy food choices. We may need restrictions on the marketing of fast food to children in the mass media, at school and at sporting events.

These are choices to be made not only by individuals and families, but also by society. Planning and policy interventions are crucial to correct a serious market failure that is promoting unhealthy lifestyles, at the expense of the health and well-being of the nation and the future life expectancy of our children.

We have choices to make as a society. We know what we prefer – how about you?

This is part fourteen of our series Obese Nation. To read the other instalments, follow the links below:

Part one: Mapping Australia’s collective weight gain

Part two: Explainer: overweight, obese, BMI – what does it all mean?

Part three: Explainer: how does excess weight cause disease?

Part four: Recipe for disaster: creating a food supply to suit the appetite

Part five: What’s economic growth got to do with expanding waistlines?

Part six: Preventing weight gain: the dilemma of effective regulation

Part seven: Filling the regulatory gap in chronic disease prevention

Part eight: Why a fat tax is not enough to tackle the obesity problem

Part nine: Education, wealth and the place you live can affect your weight

Part ten: Innovative strat egies needed to address Indigenous obesity

Part eleven: Two books, one big issue: Why Calories Count and Weighing In

Part twelve: Putting health at the heart of sustainability policy

Part thirteen: Want to stop the obesity epidemic? Let’s get moving

Billie Giles-Corti receives funding from the NHMRC and Australian Urban Infrastructure Network. Professor Giles-Corti is a Fellow of the Public Health Association of Australia.

Carolyn Whitzman receives funding from Australian Urban Infrastructure Network and is a member of the Planning Institute of Australia.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Nestlé working to educate Ivory Coast communities to end child labour

Nestlé has officially confirmed it is involving communities in the Ivory Coast in a new effort to reduce child labour, following a Fair Labor Association (FLA) report from November 2011.

Following the release of the FLA report, which included accusations that children are employed on cocoa farms that supply to its factories, Nestlé announced it would conduct an investigation into the presence of child labour in its business.

Nestlé partnered with FLA, a non-profit organisation that works with large companies to improve working conditions at various levels of the supply chain.

Nestlé has also said that it will work with its partner, the International Cocoa Initiative, a foundation that works with the cocoa industry, civil society and trade unions, to set up a new monitoring and remedy scheme recommended by the FLA.

Nestlé announced in a media release last week that the aim of the partnerships is to involve communities in the Ivory Coast in “a new effort to prevent the use of child labour in cocoa-growing areas by raising awareness and training people to identify children at risk, and to intervene where there is a problem.”

 “The use of child labour in our cocoa supply chain goes against everything we stand for,” José Lopez, Nestlé’s Executive Vice President for Operations, said.

“As the FLA report makes clear, no company sourcing cocoa from the Ivory Coast can guarantee that it doesn’t happen, but what we can say is that tackling child labour is a top priority for our company.”

An effective strategy to eliminate the problem of child labour in the Ivory Coast needs to address and change the attitudes and perceptions of those in the cocoa supply chain and the communities where they live, the FLA report said.

“Nestlé does not own or operate farms in the Ivory Coast, but is well positioned to make a positive impact on the livelihoods of workers in the cocoa supply chain due to its leverage with its suppliers and the volume of cocoa beans it procures,” the FLA report said.

Some of the measures put in place include a monitoring and remediation scheme to be trialled in 40 communities covered by two co-operatives of cocoa farms during the 2012 cocoa harvest, with plans to include 20 more co-operatives by 2016.

This would mean about 600 communities would be involved, and would begin to change some of the attitudes.

Victoria failing on alcohol policies: Auditor-General

The number of alcohol-related assaults in Victoria have risen rose by almost since 2001, while the number of ambulance attendances to deal with incidents related to alcohol more than tripled.

The state’s Auditor-General, Dr Peter Frost, has called on the government to act on alcohol-related harm, as he releases the findings.

The Effectiveness of Justice Strategies in Preventing and Reducing Alcohol-Related Harm report compared data from 2000-01 to 2010-11, and the shocking statistics have revealed the current government policies are not working.

According to the report, the Department of Justice had put $67 million towards the problem of alcohol abuse in Victoria since 2008, but with very little impact.

Frost believes there is a lack of whole‑of‑government policy for the treatment of alcohol and its position in society.

He said poorly chosen and evaluated initiatives have resulted in inconsistent liquor licensing processes and legislation in the state, and labelled the Department of Justice’s alcohol policy initiatives “largely fragmented, superficial, and reactive”.

Frost wants significant changes made to how the government approaches strategy development, licensing and enforcement, and says that without such changes, the chances of making any noticeable impact on reducing alcohol-related harm is unlikely.

“Unfortunately, steps taken to date in developing the new alcohol and drug strategy, which is currently still in draft, suggest that opportunities for meaningful change may again be missed,” Frost said in the report.

Whispering sweet nothings: the evolution of the confectionary industry

Willy Wonka was really onto something with his candy factory.

Not only did he realise that making confectionary will bring a smile to the faces of those who eat it – hell, it will get a bedridden man dancing around like he’s Patrick Swayze at the mere idea of it – but he was also an innovator.

Yes, you read that right, this article is singing the praises of Willy Wonka (“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it, anything you want to, do it…wanta change the world? There's nothing toooo it”) because confectionary is a beautiful thing.

It is one of the most innovative, creative and interesting industries, filled with people just like Willy Wonka, who unfortunately don’t have his chocolate factory, but on the upside do have his imagination and passion for invention.

“Australia has a very good confectionary industry, we have great products and some really good marketing and there are some fantastic smaller brands bubbling away which is a great thing,” Anne Barrington, Product Manager at Keith Harris Flavours & Colours, Bronson & Jacobs told Food Magazine.

“There are some really great gourmet items coming up through the really boutique brands.”

Three dimensional confectionary

The confectionary industry is always expanding, becoming more creative and experimenting with different flavours.

“The main trends we’re seeing are in the chocolate and gummy lolly markets at the moment, which are both pretty dynamic,” she told Food Magazine.

“We’re seeing a lot of sensory things coming through that give you multi dimensional textures and flavours, like the tingling cooling effect and fruit pieces coming through.

“Things that are giving the consumer almost a three dimensional experience with a products are certainly being seen in the chocolate market, which is really tapping into that gourmet part of the market and very much capitalising on very good media on antioxidants with the dark chocolate. 

Cadbury’s Marvellous Creations, which combines a number of different textures, flavours and experiences in one mouthful, launched this month, bringing home Barrington’s point about the increase in sensory experiences in the confectionary market.

“Marvellous Creations was developed in response to Australians telling us they want a chocolate experience to share as part of the family occasion, which is fun, magically exciting and unexpected,” Ben Wicks, General Manager Chocolate, Kraft Foods, told Food Magazine.

“We identified a real opportunity to create a product that is ideal for family sharing and brings everyone together at the end of the day.

“We know that families love the occasional surprise and delight in the unexpected. Marvellous Creations is the ideal way to bring a moment of unexpected joy in the everyday.”

The Marvellous Creations range offers consumers three variations, which may seem like strange combinations at first, but have been met with intrigue in the consumer market.

There’s the peanut, toffee and cookie combination, the jelly and Crunchie bits blend and the jelly, popping candy and beanies offering, all covered in famous Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate.

“We tested a number of different flavour combinations with consumers, and had overwhelming positive response to these,” Wicks explained.

“All three variants are performing extremely well, however Jelly Popping Candy Beanies is proving to be particularly popular after just four weeks on shelves,” Wicks told Food Magazine.

The strangest of combinations

Barrington explained that often, combinations of flavours that might sound odd or a little off-putting, in fact turn out to be very popular.

“Certainly the celebrity chef’s and the food shows are bringing a lot of interest into flavours and how they can work together, which means a lot of consumers are more willing to try new things,” she said.

“What we’re also seeing is a lot of different flavour trends coming through, we’re seeing savoury flavours coming into chocolate, thinks like bacon and lime and salt, salted caramel.

“We’re talking about pretty gourmet boutique brands here, but often what we see is that these things bubble away in the boutique market for a while and then it hits the mainstream once it has been accepted and received by consumers.

“It’s how the consumer accepts those new flavours, and often the gourmet boutique brands are the testing ground for new flavours.

“We’re seeing spices coming into chocolate and even into the gum lolly market, as well as some cinnamon and herbs even!

“Herbs and spices are pretty new, but people are familiar with new things coming into chocolate, we’ve seen some floral flavours, like rose. as well.

And while the confectionary industry often seems to stand on its own and march to the beat of its own drum, Barrington explained to Food Magazine that it is not actually as isolated you may think.

“There confectionary industry also often looks to the beverage markets to see some of the flavour trends going on there, because there is quite a lot of alignment,” she said.

“You might see a lot of berry flavours making their way into the beverage market and being very popular and them confectionary makers might try them in their products.

“One of the biggest trends is the expansion of berries of all types, cherry, blackberry, blueberry.

Food scientists and confectionary experts are always hard at work trying to perfect the flavours available to consumers, ensuring they are as realistic as possible.

“There will always be the favourite flavours, which are the basic flavours in confectionary; raspberry, vanilla, lime, but a lot of those flavours have gotten a  lot more sophisticated in their profiles and particular in the flavour experience, they are much truer to type nowadays,” Barrington said.

“Twenty years ago, mango flavour was what they determined mango to be, which was actually nothing like what a mango tasted like.

“Now that mangoes are so readily available and so popular here, the flavour is more true to the fruit, because it has to be.”

How flavours are changing

Beyond the creativity of the industry, and the seemingly endless combinations thought up by confectionary producers, Barrington told Food Magazine the biggest change has not been about adding things, but rather removing.

She’s talking about artificial colours and flavours, which have almost ceased to exist in not only the confectionary industry, but throughout much of the food sector.

“The biggest change across all sectors has been the natural flavours in products aimed at children,” she said.

“Twenty years ago I would say the bulk of flavours were artificial, or synthetic.

“So absolutely, the natural flavours have expanded.

“Back then, the availability to raw flavours was poor but over the last eight to 10 years, the situation has reversed and the major developments in the industry are focused on natural flavours.”

Barrington said greater understanding of the impacts of additives on health has led to widespread developments and improvements to how the flavours are colours are made.

“Now we have a lot more access to natural flavouring materials, whereas before it was very difficult.

“There is a code for how it is determined and there are very strict laws around natural flavouring and labelling your product as such.

“FSANZ [Food Standards Australia New Zealand]has changed the terminology so it is now referred to as a ‘synthetic’ flavour, rather than artificial.

The Australian confectionary industry follows the International Organisation of the Flavour Industry (IOFI) Code of Practice to ensure the health, quality and ingredients of products.

The health factor

While the enjoyment of confectionary cannot be understated, the industry is, understandably, scrutinised as the rates of obesity and obesity-related diseases rise.

In a move sure to upset chocoholics everywhere – but perhaps please their doctors – Mars announced plans in February to stop shipping chocolate bars that exceed 250 calories per portion.

It will mean the king sized chocolate bars made by the confectionary giant, including Snickers, M&M’s, Mars, Milky Way and Dove will effectively be unavailable by the end of 2013.

Even a regular sized Snickers contains 280 calories, but the company advises that it includes three serving sizes.

A king-sized Snickers contains 510 calories.

The family sized blocks of chocolate produced by the company will still be available, as they are intended to be shared.

Some critics came out swinging, accusing Mars of reducing chocolate size to save money on expensive cocoa, but the company said in a statement that it is another move by the company to create healthier products for its consumers.

The company has previously announced aims to reduce sodium levels in all Mars products by 25 per cent from 2007 levels, stop marketing chocolate products directly to children under 12 and it also started displaying calorie counts on the front of packages, eliminating trans fat and reducing saturated fat.

"Mars has a broad-based commitment to health and nutrition, and this includes a number of global initiatives," the company said in a statement.

Initiatives like Mars’ are increasing fast, but not as fast as people’s waistlines.

Of the most pressing concern is the rapidly increasing occurrences of childhood obesity, and as such, there have been calls from medical associations and parenting groups to have all advertising of junk food to children stopped.

A report in May found that children are seeing 60 per cent less junk food advertising during their television programs, following suggestions from the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) that the practise should be stopped, and calls from health groups to ban ads aimed at those under 12.

In 2009 the AFGC suggested that high sugar, fat and salt (HFSS) foods should not be advertised during television programs aimed at children.

Following the suggestion, however, HFSS advertisements aimed at children did not decrease, but rather in some instances actually increased.

The AFGC maintains this rise was the result of scheduling error, but health groups including the Cancer Council, Parents Jury, Australian Medical Association and the Australian Greens called on the government to step in and ban the practise.

The AFGC said the suggestion to ban cartoons in advertising HFSS foods to children was “unnecessary” last year.

The AFGC then released figures in May to support its suggestions, which found the advertising of HFSS foods during children’s programs has fallen to 0.7 per cent between March and May 2011, down 60 per cent from the previous year.

The independent research by the Australian advertising information service Media Monitors was revealed in the RCMI Activity Report 2011, monitored free-to-air television – including digital channels – across Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney 24/7 for 92 days.

The figures prove that the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI), which was started in 2009, is working, according to AFGC Acting Chief Executive Dr Geoffrey Annison.

Under the RCMI, 17 leading food manufacturers have committed to no advertise to children under 12, unless the ads are promoting healthy dietary choices and a healthy lifestyle.

 “The latest advertising figures confirm that adverts are not running during TV programs aimed at children,” Annison said.

Annison said the AFGC is pleased the food industry has made decisions to protect children with industry codes.

“Industry looks forward to continuing discussions with Government and public health advocates to ensure the RCMI is aligned with community expectations, remains practical for industry to implement and is successful in supporting better diets and health outcomes for all Australians.”

Barrington said that while the health and nutrition, particularly of children, is always of concern, confectionary should always be seen and marketed as a ‘sometimes’ food, and should be enjoyed at those times.

“Confectionary is a hard one because if people want chocolate, they want chocolate!

Certainly in that category, consumers won’t compromise on that.”

Well then, back to the factory for the Oompa Loompas!


Packaging receives Halal certification

An Australian developer and manufacturer of sustainable plastics and packaging has received Halal certification for a new range of resins.

Cardia Bioplastics has derived its range of Biohybrid resins from renewable products, which now have formal acknowledgement of compliance with Islamic laws surrounding safety and quality.

Cardia Managing Director Dr Frank Glatz said the certification, announced today on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX), is a “commercial milestone” for the company.

“It significantly increases our ability to drive sales as we are able to appeal to a further 1.6 billion potential customers,” he said.

“The global Muslim population is huge and growing and we now have the opportunity to tap into it.

With over a billion Muslims around the world, the sale of Halal certified products is ever-increasing.

In the UK, where 4.6 per cent of the population identify as Muslim, the production of halal meat is rising faster than the number of people of the faith, with an increase of 15 per cent in the last 11 years, according to Professor Bill Reilly, former chairman of the UK Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food.

In May, he accused the local meat industry of increasing the number of animals slaughtered without stunning, claiming it is for religious purposes, when it is actually a financial decision, which he says is “unacceptable.”

In Australia, the concern of slaughtering animals without prior stunning is also of concern, and in late May, New South Wales unveiled new regulations in state abattoirs to ensure the wellbeing and welfare of animals.

The new legislation will require a designated Animal Welfare Officer to be on the premises of any abattoir to oversee and be accountable for the welfare of animals.

But Dr Shuja Shafi, deputy general-secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, has said previously there is a "lot of confusion" over Halal meat.

He said animals can be stunned before slaughter and still be labelled Halal.

"Over 90 per cent of Halal meat is stunned before slaughter," he said.

Last October, Australian agriculture ministers failed to resolve discussions over ritual slaughters, meaning exemptions that allow some Australian abattoirs to conduct slaughter without prior stunning will continue.

There are 12 abattoirs in Australia that are exempt from the regulations that say animals for consumption must be stunned before they are slaughtered.

The exemptions are on religious or cultural grounds, but animal welfare groups want to practice stopped altogether.

The council released a statement following the meeting, saying ministers have reviewed the results of a two-year consultation process with stakeholders and have considered the science involved and the views of religious groups, but could not reach a conclusion.

Up to 250,000 animals are killed without prior stunning in Australia every year under the religious slaughter exemptions and the RSPCA has rejected claims that stunning is not allowed on religious grounds, saying stunning is accepted by the Islamic community and Jewish community and no reason existed for un-stunned slaughter to continue.

The new measures in New South Wales will ensure the meat industry is heading in the right direction, Hodgkinson said.

“These tough new measures are being introduced to foster a culture in which abattoir management and employees fully understand and implement procedures that consistently comply with animal welfare standards.




Woollies denied liquor retail purchases

The consumer watchdog has ruled against Woolworths purchasing more liquor retailers, because it would lessen competition.

Traditionally known as a supermarket giant, Woolworths has also bought into everything from hardware, pokie machines and liquor over the years.

Earlier this year, the national secretary of the food and confectionary division of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), Jennifer Dowell, told Food Magazine that Woolworths and Coles have extended their reach to control more markets than most consumers realise.

“The mistake that most people make in these Inquiries and things is that they look at Coles and Woollies as retailers, but they are food processors and they control the market,” she said.

“If I control a market I can just put all my own products in it, and as I have said at the inquiry, if I am mother pushing a trolley through Woollies with three screaming kids, and all they have is their own brand, I am not going to pack my kids up into the car and drive around to find non-existent corner stores that stock the product I actually want.

“They try to say they’re allowing consumers to decide, but they are making all the decisions for us, and it’s time we opened our eyes and saw that.

“If a company like Nestle came out and said “we’re going to buy a stake in Coles, and dominate the shelves with our products,” there would be uproar, it would be a huge scandal, but when the supermarkets do it, it’s a non-issue.

“That just doesn’t make sense.”

It’s been accused of damaging competition in the supermarkets sector and various others it has a stake in.

Last month, the Master Grocers Australia accused the corporation of building enormous supermarkets in regional centres, wiping out local competition.

''Master Grocers Australia believes the strategy is conscious, deliberate and intended to bring about a substantial lessening of competition in those local markets where over-large stores are developed,'' a draft report said.

And amid accusations that Coles and Woolworths are intimidating food manufacturers and produce growers so much they are too scared to even speak up at a Senate Inquiry, a leading Australian wine body publically criticised the big two last month, saying they bully winemakers too.

The power is so overbearing that Stephen Strachan would only speak publically once he had finished his role as the chief executive of the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia.

It wanted to buy a portfolio of New South Wales pubs from the Laundy Hotel Group, and while the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) ruled it could acquire 28 pubs yesterday, it has denied the plans to also purchase five takeaway liquor retail outlets.

According to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) announcement, Woolworths purchasing 28 pubs is unlikely to substantially affect competition, while the acquisition of the five takeaway packaged liquor retailers would likely substantially lessen competition in the relevant local markets.

The deal is reportedly worth about $500 million.


Nuckin Futs approved for sale in Australia

It seems Australians do still have a sense of humour, after no official complaints were lodged against the “Nuckin Futs” brand name.

A spoof of “f***ing nuts,” the snack food’s name got plenty of publicity early this year, and many thought it to be in bad taste.

A three-month opposition period was then entered into, to allow any person who believed the item should not be sold in Australia, to say so.

But while many people were against the brand name, no formal complaints were made to the trademark examiner, so the name can go ahead.

“Nobody took five minutes out of their day to actually oppose it after all the [abusive] emails we received," Jamie White, the solicitor who submitted the application on behalf of his client, told News Ltd.

“So really do people think it’s that scandalous and really does it impact them at all?”

“People may have been shocked by the trademark but not offended enough to put a stop to it.”

The company argued that the f-word has become a part of the accepted Australian language and therefore the trademark should not be denied.

The trademark examiner has granted permission on the condition it will not market the product to children.


Mapping Australia’s collective weight gain

OBESE NATION: It’s time to admit it – Australia is becoming an obese nation. Today we launch a series looking at how this has happened and, more importantly, what we can do to stop the obesity epidemic.

In Australia today, around two-thirds of adults and a quarter of children are overweight or obese. This is a dramatic change from the landscape just 30 years ago when we first collected national data on weight and height.

In 1980, around 60% of Australian adults had a healthy weight; today this has almost halved to around 35%. In 1980, just 10% of adults were obese. In 2012, this figure tips 25%. The infographic below shows just how quickly obesity is increasing in Australia. And why it’s not an exaggeration to call it an epidemic.


Click here to open in new window or republish.


The same trend is seen around the world, with around a third of adults and almost one in five children in the United States obese. In some island nations, the prevalence is higher still, with more than half of Samoan and Tongan women classified as obese.

In Australia, we see a higher prevalence of obesity in a number of marginalised populations, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults, Australians living outside the major cities, and those living in more socioeconomically deprived areas.

With excess weight and obesity increasing your likelihood of developing many major chronic diseases, disability and early death, governments and communities around the world are working to halt, or at least slow, this trend.

Some encouraging reports have emerged recently from Australia, the United States and several European countries that show rates of obesity are stabilising in children. But the good news is limited to specific age groups and time periods (and the studies are yet to be replicated to confirm the results). Overall, rates of childhood overweight and obesity remain high.

There are two key objectives in dealing with Australia’s collective weight gain: we must both prevent the ongoing shift towards a heavier population, and increase the proportion of children and adults at a healthy weight. But before we can even contemplate either, we need to understand the drivers of these trends.

Why do we gain weight?

A person’s weight gain is generally caused by an imbalance between energy intake and energy expenditure. This appears simple, but the factors driving this imbalance at a population level are incredibly complex, making simple solutions elusive.

It’s commonly understood that the overweight and obesity we experience today is a normal response to an abnormal environment – often referred to as the obesogenic environment. The premise of this idea is that as humans we’re programmed to conserve energy, storing it up for a time when food is scarce. But most of us now live in an environment where food is plentiful.

On top of this, our need to expend energy in daily life has disappeared. Within our lifetimes we’ve seen the dominant move towards sedentary jobs and leisure-time pursuits, such as watching television, playing computer games and shopping online. We all also recognise the ease and affordability of foods high in energy.

The data supports our anecdotal understanding of these trends. While difficult to measure accurately, a comparison of Australian energy intake from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s shows an increase in daily energy intake of around 13% for children and 3% to 4% for adults. This latter increase, of around 350kJ a day (approximately half a can of soft drink, or a slice of bread), is equates to an eventual weight gain of around 3.5kg.


Our daily energy intake increased by 3% to 4% in the ten years to 1995. AAP


Similar trends have occurred in the United States, with a 2004 Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report indicating daily energy intake between 1970 and 1990 increased by around 7% in men and 22% in women.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to measure exercise and activity levels over time. A recent report of US workers suggested that while almost half of jobs in the 1960s entailed at least moderate levels of activity, less that 20% do so now.

Trends in overall physical activity levels are more difficult to compare, as different studies generally evaluate different aspects of total physical activity (leisure time, occupational activity, incidental movement, among other measurements). But most Australian and US data suggest recreational activity levels have decreased slightly over past decades.

A recent review by Boyd Swinburn and his colleagues proposes a framework for understanding the combined forces of changes in our energy intake and activity levels. Prior to the 1960s, the dominant change was decreased levels of physical activity, but this had no observable effect on population weight status as food remained a limiting factor. Subsequent to the 1960s, the rapid changes in food availability, composition and marketing drove rapid increases in population weight, now against a backdrop of minimal activity.

The authors also highlight the strong correlation between national economic status and obesity: the move to affordable and accessible high-energy foods requires a certain level of economic wealth and activity. In this sense, the obesity epidemic can be seen as a detrimental outcome of our society’s over-consumption.


With sedentary jobs and leisure-time pursuits, we're not expending the energy we used to. Flickr/justingaynor


Clearly, our food and activity environments require the dominant focus in our efforts to tackle population weight gain. But there are a number of other contributors to weight gain that are also being evaluated for their potential role in achieving healthy population weight.

At an individual level, we know that the in utero environment influences the future child’s weight and chronic disease pathways, with both under- and over-nutrition linked to excess weight gain later in life. We also know that factors such as lack of sleep, low-quality sleep, and use of particular medications, life stages such as pregnancy, and specific genetic variations are also predictive of weight gain. Work to determine the importance of these factors at a population level is ongoing.

There are also newly identified candidates predictive of weight gain, including exposure to environmental toxicants such endocrine disruptors, Bisphenol A (BPA), phthlates and persistent organic pollutants. New studies have also suggested a link between some viral infections, such as human adenovirus, and obesity.

Reversing the trend

Successful population health campaigns to improve the levels of healthy weight, activity and nutrition in our population will need to focus on addressing the overarching drivers of the food and activity environments, while also taking into account these other factors that predict individual variation in weight gain.

The launch last year of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency’s Strategic Plan recognises the importance of this approach. It’s critical that we continue to work towards implementing a range of interventions appropriate for each stage of prevention and treatment, from childhood to adulthood.


We need a range of interventions to halt Australia's obesity epidemic. Ben Matthews


Currently, only a third of Australian adults have a healthy weight. If these trends continue, this could decrease to around one quarter over the next decade. There is a real risk that if we are not able to reverse these trends, very soon we will become conditioned to this new demographic, just as smoking was considered “normal” in the 1960s.

To prevent the burden of diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and cancer that will arise from these trends, we need strong and wide-reaching action to drive decreases in energy consumption, particularly within the Australia’s vulnerable population groups.

This is the first part of our series Obese Nation. To read the other instalments, follow the links below:

Part two: Explainer: overweight, obese, BMI – what does it all mean?

Part three: Explainer: how does excess weight cause disease?

Anna Peeters has received funding from National Health & Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council, Australian National Preventive Health Agency, VicHealth, Allergan Australia, The Global Corporate Challenge(c) . She is affiliated with Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Monash University and the Australian and New Zealand Obesity Society.

Dianna Magliano has been the recipient of two ARC linkage grants.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Subway’s chicken fillet is not a fillet at all: chain found in breach of advertising code

Fast-food chain Subway has been forced to rename its Chicken Fillet, after the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) found it to be misleading, because it is not in fact a chicken fillet, but rather processed meat.

The chicken fillet option, which has been available in Australian restaurants for 10 years, will now be referred to as the Classic Chicken, because it is made up of processed meat, shaped together to look like a fillet, and not in fact a genuine chicken fillet, as the name suggests.

Subway is in now in the process of changing signage at its 1300 stores across Australia.

The ASB received a complaint from a consumer who realised the meat was processed.

“I purchased a chicken fillet subway roll and when I got it home I was disgusted to find after biting it that it is in fact a processed chicken piece,” the complaint said.

“My understanding of a chicken fillet is a fillet of chicken not processed chicken meat.”

The restaurant chain tried to defend the name, claiming that because there had not been any other complaints, it should be allowed to stay.

 “The “Chicken Fillet Sub” has been offered for sale in Subway restaurants throughout Australia for at least ten years,” it said in response to the complaint.

“The brand has not substantially changed the formula for the product during this time period.

“The ingredients for the Chicken Fillet in the Chicken Fillet Sub as listed on the brand’s website are as follows: Chicken (82%), Flour (wheat), Water, Mineral Salt (450, 451, 452), Salt, Vegetable Oil, Wheat Starch, Sugar, Herbs and Spices, Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein, Egg Albumen, Dehydrated Vegetable (Garlic), Yeast Extract, Soy Sauce (Wheat), Flavours (Wheat, Milk), Maltodextrin, Acidity Regulators (331, 336), Whey Protein (Milk).

Subway blamed the lack of standards as to what constitutes a ‘fillet’ as part of the problem.

“After review, the Food Standards Australia New Zealand does not appear to have a standard of identity or definition for ‘chicken fillet’ and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation does not include it in its terms of ‘Cuts of Chicken Meat’, it said.

“The chicken fillet is a formed product and the brand has been using the descriptor “fillet” on the basis of the shape of the product and that the meat is boneless.

“No reference or claim has been made that the product is from whole muscle and the company has made information about the product readily available to consumers on its website.”

Nonetheless, Subway has decided to change the name of the chicken offering, and not use the word ‘fillet’ when referring to it.

The ABS ruled that while there was no definitive standard on what constitutes a ‘fillet,’ the name insinuates that is a single, quality cut of chicken.

“The Board noted that the prevailing community standard on what a fillet of chicken is, does not include chicken presented in pieces or formed or processed chicken meat.

“In the Board’s view, most members of the community would associate chicken fillets with the breast or thigh portion of the chicken in one whole piece or as a cut of chicken rather than reconstituted into a particular shape.

“Based on the above the Board considered that the advertisement was misleading or deceptive and did breach Section 2.1 of the Food Code.”

Major food companies targeting low income communities more likely to lead unhealthy lifestyles

A new report has found that major food processors are targeting low and middle income areas with their unhealthy products, armed with the knowledge that consumption of unhealthy foods is higher in amongst those societal groups.

"There is significant penetration by multinational processed food manufacturers such as Nestle, Kraft, PepsiCo, and Danone into food environments in low-and-middle income countries, where consumption of unhealthy commodities is reaching—and in some cases exceeding—a level presently observed in high income countries", international researchers wrote in this week's PLoS Medicine.

Led by David Stuckler from the Univiversity of Cambridge, the authors from the UK, US and India analysed trends in unhealthy food and beverages, including sugary drinks and processed foods that are high in salt, fat, and sugar, alcohol, and tobacco between 1997 and 2010 and forecasted to 2016.

They discovered that not only is the rate of consumption of unhealthy foods and drinks growing faster in low to middle income communities, it is also growing faster than any high-income market in history.

In April a US study found conclusive evidence that where a child lives has a significant impact on their chances of being obese.

A neighbourhood’s good walkability, proximity to high quality parks, and access to healthy food can lower the chances of being obese by almost 60 per cent, the study found.

Then last month a new Australia-wide study found that people living in rural areas are more likely to consume alcohol and be overweight and obese.

The researchers of the latest study also found that higher intake of unhealthy foods correlates strongly with higher tobacco and alcohol sales.

They believe the global rise of transnational food and drink companies penetrating these areas more likely to have unhealthy lifestyles is a deliberate and dangerous move.

"Until health practitioners, researchers, and politicians are able to understand and identify feasible ways to address the social, economic, and political conditions that lead to the spread of unhealthy food, beverage, and tobacco commodities, progress in areas of prevention and control of non-communicable diseases will remain elusive."

Earlier this month a new study found 95 per cent of Australian children over two exceeded their recommended intake of saturated fat.

How does excess weight cause disease?

OBESE NATION: It’s time to admit it – Australia is becoming an obese nation. Today we launch a series looking at how this has happened and, more importantly, what we can do to stop the obesity epidemic.

We start by setting the scene with a map illustrating the extent of the problem and some tools to understand what this means: how we measure obesity and here, an explanation of how excess weight affects our body and causes disease.

When you consider the potential for a shortened lifespan and increased risk of a long list of diseases, it’s no wonder Australia’s obesity epidemic is causing so much concern. According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, obesity causes, worsens, or increases your risk of a raft of diseases, including:

  • diabetes,
  • obstructive sleep apnoea,
  • polycystic ovarian syndrome,
  • hypertension,
  • abnormal lipids,
  • heart attack and stroke,
  • some cancers,
  • fatty liver.

So how does obesity cause or contribute to these problems? The answer is complex, as there are multiple mechanisms. But the most important factor is that fat causes resistance to insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating metabolism.

When the body accumulates excess fat, it’s either stored in fat cells, where it’s relatively safe, or deposited in tissues, such as the liver and muscles.

In the liver, fat drives the increased production of glucose (sugar). In muscles, excess fat impairs the action of insulin to stimulate the body’s cells to use this glucose as a source of energy. The resulting insulin resistance forces the pancreas to overproduce insulin, in an effort to maintain normal blood glucose levels.

This is dramatically demonstrated in patients who have lipodystrophy, a genetic or autoimmune disorder in which there is a deficiency of fat cells. These people have nowhere to store fat, except in liver and muscle, and develop severe insulin resistance, diabetes and fatty liver.


Obesity affects the body’s ability to produce insulin. This is caused by stress on the insulin-producing pancreatic islet (β) cells and excess fat directly damaging these islet cells.

In people with a genetic predisposition to diabetes, the combination of insulin resistance, direct fat toxicity and genetic predisposition leads to the failure and death of islet cells. The result is a relative deficiency of insulin and the development of type 2 diabetes.

Obstructive sleep apnoea

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) occurs when there is an excess of fat around the neck which increases the collapsibility of the air passage to the lung, particularly during sleep. The resulting reduction of blood oxygen tells the sleeper’s brain to wake up and take a deep breath. This happens repeatedly during the night, preventing the individual from getting enough sleep.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome

The high insulin levels resulting from insulin resistance stimulate the ovary to make an excess of male-type hormones (normally produced in small amounts in women). This over-production of hormones can lead to acne, facial hair and the production of ovarian cysts. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is also a common cause of infertility.


Hypertension, or high blood pressure, means the heart has to work harder than usual to pump blood to the arteries.

Insulin has been shown to increase blood pressure by causing the kidney to retain salt and by activating the sympathetic (adrenaline) nervous system. Salt increases the amount of water that is retained (and therefore the volume of the blood), while the increased sympathetic activity narrows some blood vessels. The increased fluid and decreased vessel volume combine to increase blood pressure.

Abnormal lipids (high cholesterol)

The body produces cholesterol, a type of fat, to perform a number of metabolic processes such as creating hormones and bile.

The typical lipid abnormalities seen in people with obesity are elevated triglyceride (known as a “storage fat”) and a low HDL-cholesterol (or good cholesterol). While still under investigation, there is some evidence to suggest that elevated triglycerides are caused by fat-induced insulin resistance.

Low HDL-cholesterol is bad because its role is to take cholesterol from the blood vessels to the liver for removal. Low HDL means that this cleaning function doesn’t occur, leaving harmful cholesterol to remain in the blood vessels.

Increased risk of heart attack and stroke

As described above, obesity causes multiple cardiovascular risk factors such as impaired glucose tolerance, high blood pressure and abnormal lipids. These lead to excess fat deposition in the blood vessels, including those supplying the heart muscle and the brain.

When these fatty plaques rupture, a clot forms over them, blocking the vessel and resulting in a heart attack or a stroke, depending on which artery the clot forms in.

Increased incidence of cancer

The increased risk of cancer, particularly of the breast and bowel, with obesity has been documented in several large surveys. The mechanisms of this link are not yet fully understood and are currently the subject of much research.

Fatty liver

Excess fat accumulation in the liver can cause damage leading to liver-cell death, and in genetically susceptible people, can even cause cirrhosis (end-stage liver disease which requires a liver transplant).

The high prevalence of obesity means that fat-induced cirrhosis is overtaking excess alcohol or viral hepatitis as the commonest cause of cirrhosis.

Researchers are still investigating the mechanisms underpinning the links between obesity and various chronic diseases, but there’s no doubt excess weight poses a serious health risk. Urgent action is needed to halt Australia’s obesity epidemic.

This is part three of our series Obese Nation. To read the other instalments, follow the links below:

Part one: Mapping Australia’s collective weight gain

Part two: Explainer: overweight, obese, BMI – what does it all mean?

Joseph Proietto received funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council to investigate the link between obesity and abnormal lipids.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.