Technical Paper 1:
Obesity in Australia: a need for urgent action
Improve public education and information
Effective social marketing programs need to motivate community members to participate in a supportive social movement, such as programs designed to make lives healthier. The Healthy Weight Healthy Lives social marketing campaign in the United Kingdom, for example, aims to engage stakeholders from the public and commercial sectors, and create a practical healthy living campaign driven by ordinary people. It is based on research indicating that people want help to live healthier lives and want to be broadly supported to do this, including by government and commercial organisations.
Food and menu labelling
Evidence suggests that displaying information about restaurant menu items at point of sale or on menus is more effective than making this information available to the public via other means, such as on the internet, and may be associated with lower calorie purchases by consumers who see the information.
In the Technical Report, we described the introduction of restaurant menu labelling into various US jurisdictions. Several initiatives have commenced in the United Kingdom concerning menu labelling:
- The UK Department of Health is developing the Healthy Food Mark for the public sector, to signal where public sector caterers are providing healthier, nutritious food and encouraging healthier eating. The initial focus of the Healthy Food Mark will be on meeting general guidelines on food, macronutrients and salt. Caterers will also be asked to meet agreed environmental standards as part of the criteria. Guidelines on making the procurement of food more sustainable will be developed for this purpose. The Healthy Food Mark will be developed and piloted throughout 2009 in central government staff canteens, prison service and National Health services, to assess its practicality and impact in each institutional setting.
- The FSA introduced a voluntary scheme for food service outlets to display calorie counts in January 2009. By June 2009, more than 450 food outlets, including workplace caterers, sit down and quick-service restaurants, theme parks and leisure attractions, pub restaurants, cafes and sandwich chains, are expected to introduce calorie information, some on a pilot basis. Outlets include 18 major catering companies and businesses such Burger King, KFC, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s Cafes, Pizza Hut, Subway, and Tesco and Unilever staff restaurants. Each company will:
- Display calorie information for most food and drink they serve
- Print calorie information on menu boards, paper menus or on the edge of shelves
- Ensure the information is clear and easily visible at the point where people choose their food
Research is planned to assess customer understanding and use of the system, as well as practicalities and costs. This will be used to inform the next steps for a wider roll-out of calorie labelling on menus.