Doctors to help tackle childhood obesity through new food labels

16 Jul 2001

GPs are being recruited in a national campaign to educate patients on good nutrition and help reduce rates of childhood obesity through new food labels.

The Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) will this month send information to doctors* on new national food labelling laws, which were approved by health ministers late last year.

The new nutrition panels will make clear to consumers the levels of saturated fats, total fats, protein, energy, sugar and carbohydrates, as well as salt content in all foods. Up until now nutrition labelling has only been compulsory where a food has made a nutrition claim such as 'reduced fat' or 'low salt'.

AMA Federal Vice-President, Dr Trevor Mudge, encouraged GPs to relay information to their patients on the new labels.

"It may take consumers a while to understand the labels and even longer for some manufacturers to adopt the system - particularly manufacturers of high-fat, high-salt content foods," Dr Mudge said.

"Our message to the public is: If you don't know what's in it, leave it on the shelf."

ANZFA Managing Director, Mr Ian Lindenmayer, said that recent ANZFA consumer research had shown that the family doctor was an important first contact for people seeking information on nutrition in the interests of their health.

"We know that doctors already play a key role in educating the public about good health. In the past, there was no nutritional information provided on foods, which raised nutritional problems for many people - the new labelling requirements are overcoming this," he said.

Dr Mudge said the AMA strongly supported initiatives to improve nutritional standards in Australia and was committed to raising awareness about increasing rates of childhood obesity. "Childhood obesity has tripled in Australia in the past decade. Parents and other role models - including doctors - have a responsibility to turn this around," he said.

AMA Family Doctor Week 2001 - Your Doctor Is With You For Life - aims to promote the important role of the GP in the community.

*Information to be included in the next issue of Australian Medicine.

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