Improving food supply

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Kilojoule menu labelling

Understanding the nutritional value of food prepared and served away from the home means Australians can make informed choices about the foods they eat. Menu labelling is one way to provide consumers with nutrition information at point of purchase.

Eating out is part of today's Australian lifestyle. Purchasing and eating foods away from home is no longer a special treat. It's the toast you buy with your coffee on your way to work, the sandwich you pick up at lunchtime and the takeaway you grab on the way home.

Australians now spend 42 cents in every food dollar eating out of home. The danger is when eating out, we may throw caution to the wind. Portion sizes are larger and in most cases, the meals you are served will contain more energy, saturated fat and salt than meals you prepare at home.

Lack of knowledge and understanding of the nutritional value of foods prepared and served away from home means that many Australians who eat out regularly do not realise or consider the impact of this on their overall diet and long term disease risk.

The Heart Foundation’s ‘calls to action’ for menu labelling are:

  • Legislate and enforce mandatory nutrition labelling on menus and menu boards at point of purchase.
  • Fund and run an education campaign to help Australians to understand what menu labelling means and how to use if to choose healthier foods.
  • Monitor and evaluate the menu labelling initiatives to determine efficacy in Australia.
  • Fund and/or support further research to build evidence for future action, as identified by the Heart Foundation.

For further information on menu labelling please read the documents below:

Currently in Australia, menu labelling in quick service restaurants has been enacted in New South Wales (2011), Australian Capital Territory (2013) and South Australia (2013).

Advocate or demand for menu labelling in your state or local area.

Front of pack labelling

The Heart Foundation is supportive of any initiative that genuinely guide people to healthier food and drink choices.

Front of pack labels are a symbol or logo placed on the front of processed food packets which provide convenient, relevant and readily understood nutrition information to assist consumers to make informed food purchases and healthier eating choices. 

Front of pack labelling drives change in the food supply by increasing the availability and demand for healthier food products and decreasing the availability and demand for unhealthy food products.

The main objectives of front of pack labelling are to increase the number of people eating in accordance with dietary guidelines; and to complement and support other strategies designed to address the increasing prevalence of obesity, poor nutrition and chronic disease.

Effective front of pack labelling systems should:

  1. enable direct comparisons between similar foods
  2. increase awareness of food that may contribute positively or negatively diet related chronic diseases
  3. understand across socio-economic, culturally and linguistically diverse and low literacy and numeracy groups.

Front of pack labelling has an important role to play for assisting consumer make healthier choices.  It will have the greatest impact when combined with:

  • collaboration between government, the food industry and other bodies
  • food labelling awareness education strategies and campaign 
  • evaluation and monitoring of the impact on consumers and the food supply.

Food reformulation

Reformulation by manufacturers of commonly consumed processed foods is one strategy to improve our diets and population health.

The Heart Foundation defines reformulation as changing the nutrient content of a processed food product to either reduce the content of negative nutrients such as sodium, saturated fat, trans fat or energy (kilojoules) or to increase the content of beneficial nutrients such as dietary fibre, wholegrains, fruit, vegetables and unsaturated fats.

Reformulation of processed foods provides a realistic opportunity to improve the health of a population through improving the nutritional characteristics of commonly consumed processed foods. Further, food reformulation has the potential to reduce health inequalities, with disadvantaged groups likely to benefit proportionately more than the general population. 

For more information on the evidence for food reformulation and the Heart Foundation’s ‘calls to action’ to the Australian Government, the food industry and key stakeholders, read our rapid review “Effectiveness of food reformulation as a strategy to improve population health”. 

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