NEW research has named and shamed the worst food and drink products, revealing half were not up to standard.
The report produced by Australia’s Deakin University, ranks the nutrition policies of the country’s biggest food and beverage manufacturers. It found only half of these companies received a passing grade.
Scores ranged from only three out of 100 for Parmalat who make Pauls, Vaalia, Lemnos cheeses and Connoisseur desserts and 71 out of 100, the best ranking for Lion Dairy and Drinks, which is affiliated with Dairy Farmers, Vitasoy, Yoplait and Farmer’s Union.
The report looked at 19 major food and drink companies.
Deakin’s Global Obesity Centre Associate Professor Gary Sacks reported while most companies acknowledged a responsibility for efforts to improve population diets, they only had “some” policies and commitments in place.
“A key point, backed up by research, is that the current voluntary commitments to reduce marketing to kids are ineffectual, so companies need to tighten up their policies and actions in the area,” Prof Sacks said.
“Unhealthy diets are creating a public health crisis in Australia. This has a high cost to the economy, including large impacts on the health care system and productivity.”
Some of the other companies that were identified as adhering to regulations were Nestle, Unilever and Sanitarium, whereas Kraft Heinz, McCain and Schweppes fell below the line.
For food companies, meeting standards is not just about social responsibility, it’s also about long-term business sustainability.
Investors are increasingly focused on company contributions to the health of all Australians, and how this links to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
In the findings, three priorities were set out for companies to make a positive contribution to obesity prevention and better nutrition for the Australian population.
These include strengthening existing commitments to changing the way foods are promoted to children, reducing their exposure to “unhealthy” foods.
Setting specific targets regarding production, reducing added sugar, salt, saturated fat and artificial additives.
All companies implementing the Australian Government’s “Health Star” rating system across all relevant products.
While actions were apparently implemented to minimise children’s exposure to sponsorship and advertising of unhealthy food at local sporting events, deals with commercial events still see the likes of Four and Twenty meat pies, Oak flavoured milk and even Zooper Dooper ice blocks advertised at games like the AFLX and others that are extremely popular with children and families.
Even on home televisions, especially during school holidays, the increase in commercials for nutritionally poor foods and drinks flood program breaks during prime time.
“Current promises are full of loopholes. While they promise not to directly target children, this doesn’t prevent unhealthy food advertising in prime-time when the highest number of children are watching,” Prof Sacks said.