The Australian Greens' proposal to require junk food and alcohol companies to choose between providing health information in their advertising or paying a levy is a good first step in putting some accountability for Australia's rising obesity rates back on unhealthy food manufacturers, according to Prof. Boyd Swinburn from the Obesity Policy Coalition.
"The Greens' proposal has opened the issue of junk food advertising up for serious debate. Without any policy reform, in less than five years one-third of all adults will be obese, not just overweight. There are huge health and social costs associated with this.
"Junk food companies spend millions of dollars bombarding consumers with advertising designed to persuade them to consume their unhealthy products. This undermines the attempts by parents, governments and health professionals to promote healthy diets for children.
"Giving consumers the facts about the true nature of the food the companies are advertising and the serious health risks of over-consuming junk food will help them to make informed decisions about what they eat.
"This proposal has shone a light on an issue that requires far greater scrutiny by the government. For too long, junk food marketers have had free reign under the guise of self-regulation.
"An advertising levy would need to be part of a comprehensive package of measures to address the obesity epidemic including restrictions on junk food marketing to children and clear nutrition labelling on the front of food packs," said Prof. Swinburn.
The Obesity Policy Coalition is a group of leading public health agencies who are concerned about the escalating levels of overweight and obesity, particularly in children.
The Obesity Policy Coalition partners include Diabetes Australia Victoria, Cancer Council Victoria, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University.