The Australian government's National Health and Medical Research Council has released its revised Australian Dietary Guidelines, and it's generated a mixed reaction from the food and beverage industry.
Key points of the guidelines are that Australians should enjoy a wide range of nutritious foods including vegetables, wholegrains cereals, lean meat and reduced fat dairy products while also embracing an active lifestyle, storing food safely and supporting breastfeeding.
It says that Australians aren't eating enough fruit, vegetables, legumes, fish, eggs and poultry, with 60 percent of Australian adults and 25 percent of children overweight or obese/ If trends continue, 83 percent of men and 75 percent of women over the age of 20 will be overweight or obese by 2025.
Unsurprisingly then, the Heart Foundation and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) have welcomed the guidelines' increased emphasis on physical activity and energy balance.
Gary Dawson, AFGC CEO said, "Put simply energy balance means getting the balance right between energy consumed and energy expended in order to maintain a healthy weight.
"This is entirely consistent with the Dietary Guidelines released today [18.2.13] with its core message that Australians should get plenty of nutritious foods, go easy on the treats and stay physically active to maintain a healthy weight.
"The Guidelines confirm that the old common sense rule – that we should eat to our needs, get a balanced diet and stay physically active – is just as true today as it has ever been, and still backed by scientific evidence," he said.
Unilever has also expressed its support for the guidelines, especially its recognition of the difference between good and bad fats, with the National Health and Medical Research Council recommending that Australians replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
However, Unilever has expressed its disappointment that the evidence and recommendations in the guidelines aren't clearly communicated to consumers via the accompanying Australian Guide for Healthy Eating, apractical tool aimed at helping people make healthy food choices.
Brooke Sprott, nutrition & health manager at Unilever said "It is pleasing to see clear guidelines for the public on the recommended allowance for the number of serves of unsaturated spreads and oils that they can consume each day. However, by featuring ‘off the plate’ in the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, consumers may be confused on how to include healthy oils and spreads into their diet."
Other criticisms of the guidelines, according to the The Conversation, include that it doesn't adequately consider the environmental sustainability of the food supply chain, and that the benefits of dairy are overstated.
For the first time, the guidelines recommended Australians limit their intake of added sugar to help address the country's obesity problem. It means that added sugar now joins alcohol and added salt in what consumers should be avoiding.
According to the ABC, the AFGC's chief executive Geoffrey Robinson isn't convinced added sugar should have been tarred with the same brush as alcohol or extra salt.
"We will be continually looking at evidence. In fact there's been evidence even in the last couple of months indicating that sugar is no more than a carbohydrate.
"It does contribute to energy in the diet and of course it is important that people do meet the energy-in, energy-out equation in terms of maintaining a healthy weight."
Robinson also said the guidelines should be reviewed more frequently than the current ten years.
"We hope that the dietary guidelines get reviewed more frequently than that. There's a lot of evidence to suggest that they should perhaps be reviewed every five years.
"But certainly we will be advocating for, as always, the dietary advice that we present to the community and to Australians as a whole [is] based on the best available evidence and indeed the most up-to-date evidence," he said.