Australian Department of Health - Food and Health Dialogue
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from left, images of: industry representatives, factory production, woman reading product labels, family eating dinner, then text Food and Health Dialogue.

CSIRO Literature Review Summary

Background

Initiatives that engage industry and government in promoting healthy eating and expanding healthy food options are being implemented around the world. The United Kingdom, for example, is working with the food industry to reformulate products to help make healthier food options more accessible. In the United States work has concentrated on expanding the range of food and drink portion sizes and promoting appropriate energy intake. These initiatives support marketing trends that point to increased consumer awareness of the importance of healthy eating.

In 2011, the Department of Health (the Department) engaged the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to undertake a review of initiatives taking place nationally and internationally that aim to address poor dietary intake through activities including food reformulation, portion standardisation, consumer messaging and those where public health elements are built into the activities.

The purpose of the project was to help to inform the future activities of the Food and Health Dialogue (the Dialogue) and support the Australian Government’s Industry Partnership and broader healthy living agenda. The primary activity of the Dialogue is action on food innovation, including a reformulation program to reduce the saturated fat, added sugar, salt and energy, and increase the fibre, wholegrain, fruit and vegetable content of a range of commonly consumed foods. Although the Dialogue is now well established, there are many initiatives that incorporate food reformulation both nationally and internationally that could provide valuable learning opportunities.
A summary of the final report outlining the outcomes of the review and recommendations for the Dialogue is provided below.

Initiatives

Ten initiatives were reviewed as part of this project, each aiming to improve population dietary intake and each requiring engagement and active participation of the food industry. These initiatives were undertaken in a range of countries comparable to Australia and were considered relevant to the Dialogue.

The range of activities covered by each initiative varied and included approaches aimed at achieving structural change (e.g. changing the nutritional composition of foods within the food supply), consumer behaviour change (e.g. encouraging consumers to change the amount and types of foods that they eat), consumer awareness raising (e.g. increasing consumers’ awareness of particular food and health issues) and coordination/lobbying (e.g. acting as a co-ordinating body for multiple organisations and/or directing activity towards changing government activities).

These approaches were influenced by factors such as the context of the implementation, findings/lessons learnt from other initiatives conducted elsewhere and the authority and role of the managing organisation.

Management structures of the initiatives ranged between special purpose organisations set up by food companies, government initiatives spanning multiple departments, single departments and initiatives mounted and managed by not-for-profit organisations.

The ten initiatives reviewed as part of this project are outlined briefly in the table below. Links to the websites are provided for further information.

Initiative Georgraphic location Scale of initiative Lead Manager Description
The Tick Program Australia National - food supply focused

Heart Foundation

(Non-government organisation)

Licenses the use of the Tick symbol on food packaging or at point of sale provided category-based nutrient criteria have been met. It has a history of more than 20 years and is entirely funded by licensing fees from food companies.

Heart Foundation Tick Program (Australia) website

The Keyhole Labelling Initiaitve Nordic Countries Multi-country - food supply focused National government

Operates in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. The keyhole symbol is a trademark that identifies healthier food within 25 categories. The initiative has high consumer awareness and the trademark appears on 20-25% of food sold.

The Keyhole Labelling Initiative (Sweden) website

'Drop the Salt!' Campaign Australia National - sodium focused

Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health

(Non-government organisation)

Aims to reduce population sodium intake by communicating the benefits fo lower salt intake and setting targets for categories of packaged and restaurant foods. Media advocacy is an important strategy for the initiative.

AWASH ‘Drop the Salt’ Campaign (Australia) website

Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada Canada National-sodium focused National government

A strategy to reduce population intake of sodium. Its approaches include education, voluntary reduction of sodium in processed food and food sold in food service, and research.

Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada (Canada) website

National Salt Reduction Initiative United States National-sodium focused Local government

An initiative to reduce salt in packaged and restaurant foods. Sodium targets have been set within 62 packaged food categories and 25 restaurant food categories to be met by 2012, with further targets to be met by 2014.

New York City National Salt Reduction Initiative (United States) website

Food Standards Agency Salt Reduction Strategy United Kingdom National-sodium focused Statutory authority

A program of work to help consumers reduce their salt intake, it includes food reformulation (packaged and restaurant foods), public awareness raising and the use of front-of-packet food labelling.

Food Standards Agency Salt Reduction Initiative (United Kingdom) website

Change 4 Life United Kingdom National - diet and lifestyle National government

The first national social marketing program in the United Kingdom to promote healthy weight. It works in partnership with a large range of companies and organisations to leverage the Change4Life brand to promote activities associated with a healthy weight.

Change 4 Life Campaign (England and Wales) website

Food Standards Agency Healthy Catering Commitments United Kingdom National - food service and food supply focused Statutory authority

The development, declaration and monitoring of commitments by catering organisations covering procurement of healthier foods/ingredients, menu planning, kitchen practice and consumer information.

Food Standards Agency Healthy Catering Commitments (United Kingdom) website

European Technology Platform 'Food 4 Life' European Union Multi-country-research and technology focued Multi-country governance organisation

Aims to build strong links between industry, academia and researchers in order to prioritise the major research needs for the EU food and drink industry, to secure appropriate resources, and identify other non-research issues that need to be addressed.

European Technology Platform ‘Food for Life’ (European Union) website

Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation United States National - obesity and food supply focused Structured coalition of private companies

A company CEO-led organisation designed to help reduce obesity–especially childhood obesity–by 2015. It leads a national coalition that brings together more than 160 retailers, food and beverage manufacturers, restaurants, sporting goods and insurance companies, trade associations, non-government organisations and professional sports organisations.

Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (United States) website


Key findings for the Dialogue

A number of areas were identified throughout the review with learning from national and international initiatives for the future work of the Dialogue.

These encompass the following areas: