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Healthy appetite for new KJ menu labelling laws

Thursday 7 April, 2016

Victorian consumers will soon have the power to make a more informed choice about the food they're ordering at the fast food counter thanks to new mandatory kilojoule labelling laws announced today by the Victorian Government, according to Todd Harper, CEO of Cancer Council Victoria.

"We are absolutely delighted that the Victorian Government has committed to introduce mandatory kilojoule labelling in fast food outlets and supermarkets. This is a tremendous win for consumers and supports the good work the Victorian government is already investing in to improve the health of Victorians such as LiveLighter and the Achievement Program.

"Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing certain types of cancer, including some of the most common cancers such as bowel and (post-menopausal) breast cancer, as well as cancers of the endometrium, kidney and oesophagus.

"With nearly two-thirds of the Victorian population either overweight or obese, we need to make it easier for people to make healthier choices - and here's one way that's been proven to work. We know from the New South Wales experience that this form of labelling together with an education campaign has been shown to be effective, with consumers choosing meals that are 15% lower in kilojoules than prior to the implementation of the system,1" said Mr Harper.

Craig Sinclair, Head of Prevention at Cancer Council Victoria, said in-store kilojoule labelling wasn't an attempt to dissuade people from buying fast food but rather to highlight the nutrition information of various options and let the consumer decide.

"While no one would be surprised to find out that most fast food items are extremely energy dense, many would be shocked to learn that some meal deals contain around two-thirds of your daily average intake of kilojoules, while relatively healthy sounding snacks such as banana bread can be around a third.

"We are pleased to see this legislation will apply throughout stores on menu boards, and price tags as well as online, as previously this information in many cases has been very hard for consumers to find," said Mr Sinclair.

A recent Cancer Council Victoria and Heart Foundation survey found that only two in nine of Victoria's major fast food chains supplied adequate nutritional information to allow consumers to make informed choices about what they're eating.

The report found that the majority of stores surveyed were denying consumers basic nutrition information about their products at the point of sale by not including the amount of kilojoules on all products on their menu boards or by purposely obscuring the information, making it small, hard to read and difficult to find.

"It's also vital that there's an education campaign to accompany the labelling changes to give consumers context around the number of kilojoules in a product so they can understand what's high and low," said Mr Sinclair.

About the survey
Cancer Council Victoria and the Heart Foundation surveyed the point of purchase kilojoule menu labelling practices at 59 fast food outlets, from nine fast food and snack chains across metropolitan and regional Victoria. The survey compared their labelling practices to the best practice guidelines implemented in New South Wales.

The investigation found:

  • Only two of the nine (22%) chains, Boost Juice and KFC, consistently displayed kilojoule information in line with the requirements in New South Wales, although all businesses surveyed had some kilojoule information in store.
  • Almost half of the 59 outlets (46%) did not have kilojoule information on all items for sale. 
  • Almost one in five (19%) did not reference the average adult's daily intake of kilojoules, as required in NSW, which allows customers to consider their choices in the context of their daily energy requirements.
  • Less than half (47%) met the New South Wales standards for font, size and position of the kilojoule information.
  • Less than three in four (73%) provided kilojoule information that was legible to consumers.
  • All chains provided kilojoule information on their website.

1. NSW Food Authority July 2013