Expert warning to Australian overweight forum

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Professor Philip James, Chairman of the International Obesity Taskforce,was the keynote speaker at the Healthy Lifestyle Forum to Help Combat Childhood Obesity held in Parliament House, Canberra.

Prof James has urged the Australian food industry and regulators to impose the labeling system following a decision just days ago by British authorities to help countries throughout Europe with the traffic light labelling system.

"Six months ago this idea was considered radical however detailed analysis of public understanding in Britain has shown it is the most promising single measure for informing the public about the quality of their diet and a potentially potent weapon in the fight against obesity.

"Simple red, amber or green labels show if foods have acceptable levels of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. The evidence from supermarkets in Britain now is that the traffic lights encourage food manufacturers to improve the quality of particular products and the consumer immediately responds", Prof James said.

In Australia the Food Regulation Standards Committee (FRSC) is currently considering recommendations on front-of-pack food labelling.

The Health Lifestyle Forum, was opened by the Minister for Health and Ageing, The Hon Tony Abbott will gather leading obesity and health specialists to help develop new intervention strategies. In its eighth year, the forum is hosted by Senator Guy Barnett and organised by the University of Sydney.

Experts at the forum considered key issues including:

  • Effective health service delivery for overweight and obese children and adolescents
  • Foetal, early life and the preschool years- what needs to be done?
  • Monitoring/benchmarking-Options for measuring and tracking the epidemic
  • Industry and private sector solutions-encouraging support and engagement
  • Schools and the wider community
  • Addressing the environments in which we live and function

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