Landmark report calls for junk food ban at school canteens and sport venues.

Health experts are calling for national strategy to curb Australia’s obesity epidemic that would include a restriction on junk food being sold in school canteens.

The landmark report, released today, involved 100 nutrition and policy experts from 53 organisations around the country and argues that variation in nutrition policies across federal and state governments is hindering efforts to address the issue.

It found, for example, that while each state and territory has healthy food provision in schools, they differ in the way the policies are applied and the extent to which that is monitored and supported.

Study author Dr Gary Sacks of Deakin Univerity’s Global Obesity Centre said in a statement that it is vital that such policies are implemented in a coordinated way.

“There is no silver bullet to helping people eat more healthily – we know from international evidence that we need coordination across federal, state and local government to implement a whole suite of different policies to tackle the problem.”

Also recommended in the study are taxes on unhealthy foods (especially sugary drinks), and regulations to reduce exposure of children to marketing of unhealthy food.

“It’s a good start to have policies for restricting junk foods in school canteens, but if kids are then inundated with unhealthy foods at sports venues, and they see relentless junk food ads on prime-time TV, it doesn’t make it easy for them to eat well,” Dr Sacks said.

Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition and a partner in the research, said that the study would serve as a “valuable roadmap” to governments in their efforts to tackle some of the driving forces behind the issue.

“When nearly two-thirds of Australians are overweight or obese, we know that it’s not just about individuals choosing too many of the wrong foods, there are strong environmental factors at play – such as the all pervasive marketing of junk food particularly to children,” she said.

“Australians suffering and dying younger and younger from weight-related illness does not have to be a foregone conclusion.”

Rebecca and Robin talk about all things food and whether we can consider it our friend or foe.