Menu labelling on the table as obesity battle ramps up in W.A.

| July 17, 2018

Western Australian fast food menus may soon have to include information on the amount of kilojoules in the food they offer, as a part of a suite of options to encourage healthier lifestyles.

The Department of Health will investigate the feasibility of including kilojoule labelling on menus to help consumers make better, informed choices about the foods they buy.

Some WA food outlets, that are part of national franchises, already provide some kind of point of sale kilojoule labelling. Mandatory kilojoule labelling is in place in NSW, the ACT, SA, Queensland and Victoria.

This proposed initiative is the latest announcement to come out of the State Government’s Preventive Health Summit, which was held in March 2018.

Following the Summit, the McGowan Government has already introduced several measures. These include directing WA hospitals and the Department of Health to improve compliance with the Healthy Options WA Policy so that all food sold on their premises meets required standards.

A ban on alcohol advertising on all public transport has been announced. Alcohol advertising on train infrastructure has already stopped, while it will be phased out from buses as current contracts expire.

The Health Minister has also asked the Australian Government to consider developing a National Obesity Prevention Strategy, to look at ways to reduce children’s exposure to advertising for unhealthy food and drinks. The federal government have the authority to show leadership and seriously consider introducing a tax on sugar sweetened drinks.

Alcohol use and obesity are among the leading causes of illness, disability, and tragically, early and preventable death in WA. They also have a major impact on families and carers, and costs to the hospital system as well as the State’s economy.

The WA Preventive Health Summit – Action on Obesity and alcohol: what needs to change? – was held on Friday March 2, 2018 and showcased national public health experts. More than 160 invited stakeholders attended the summit, and hundreds more members of the public streamed the event online.

A summary report on the Preventive Health Summit, including key themes and policy options discussed, has been provided to the Sustainable Health Review for consideration in future planning for the WA health system.

The state’s Health Minister Roger Cook notes that “Preventive health is an important issue for all Western Australians, because it affects our daily lives, and impacts the quality of our lifestyle.

“Fast foods are a major contributor to obesity. Given that two thirds of Western Australian adults are overweight or obese, we need to help people make healthier choices.

“There is strong public support for nutrition labelling in WA, and there is evidence that it encourages people to make healthier choices.

“While many of the Preventive Health Summit expert recommendations can be addressed at a State Government level, there are some things that state governments can’t change.

“That’s why I’ve asked the Federal Government to provide some important leadership in this area as well.

“Addressing chronic alcohol and obesity issues will reduce the burden on our public health system, ease waitlist times for patients, lower the cost to taxpayers and help people feel better.”