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Public wants better labels on unhealthy foods

Regulations to improve food labelling have strong public support, with almost 80% of people surveyed supporting the introduction of better labels on unhealthy foods such as those that are high in sugar, salt and fat.

In a survey of 2474 adults in NSW, Cancer Council NSW researchers found that 86% of people supported a colour-coded food labelling system, 79% supported displaying health warning labels on unhealthy food and 73% of people supported a ban on unhealthy food advertising that targets children.

The research, in the latest edition of the journal Public Health Research & Practice, published by the Sax Institute, also found that the most unpopular policy was a tax on unhealthy foods, with only 42% of people supporting the move.

“Restrictions on food marketing to children should remain a priority, given the high public acceptance and evidence of effectiveness,” said study co-author Clare Hughes, who is the Nutrition Program Manager at Cancer Council NSW.

“It is also important to strengthen food labelling laws to ensure only healthy foods can carry claims about nutrition content. This would boost confidence in food labelling and better support consumers to make healthier food choices.”

The study, conducted in 2013, aimed to identify whether there is a relationship between support for food policy initiatives and awareness of the link between obesity-related lifestyle risk factors and cancer.

Recent estimates in Australia show that more than 3900 cancer cases (3.4% of all cancers) diagnosed in 2010 could be attributed to overweight or obesity, 7089 (6.1%) to inadequate diet and 1814 (1.6%) to inadequate physical activity.

The study found support for food policy initiatives was higher among those who were aware of the link between cancer and obesity-related lifestyle factors than among those who were unaware of this link.

“Increasing awareness of the link between obesity-related lifestyle factors and cancer could increase community support for food policy initiatives, which, in turn, support the population to maintain a healthy weight,” Ms Hughes said.

Paper relevant to this story – please embed link in stories:

Other papers in this issue of Public Health Research & Practice:

Approximately 60% of all farm injury deaths are work related, and there has been no improvement in NSW for at least 15 years, research finds.

Daily smoking prevalence among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults has decreased from 50% to 41% over the past decade, with particular success in urban and regional areas, research finds.

Public health and policy responses to the advertising of unhealthy food and drinks needs to include embracing social media platforms to deliver effective counter-marketing campaigns.

Barriers such as patients refusing to provide information are preventing GPs from ensuring hepatitis B contacts are appropriately screened and vaccinated.

Strategies to increase public awareness of risk factors for colorectal cancer and screening recommendations are urgently required, with research finding that many patients have poor understanding of the risks.

Communicating with the public about the risks of naturally occurring asbestos should involve open acknowledgment of uncertainty, prioritising response to community concern above narrow myth busting strategies, and supporting community action.

Antenatal screening for hepatitis B can be used to monitor trends in population prevalence, researchers find.

Pharmaceutical claims are a robust proxy for prescription data to describe medicine use in patients with HER2 positive breast cancer.

Nyssa Skilton, PHRP Deputy Editor
M: 0408 331 262 E: [email protected] W: T: @phrpjournal

Public Health Research & Practice is a peer-reviewed, Medline-listed quarterly online journal published by the Sax Institute. Subscribe for free at 

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