Look who’s fat and failing – survey reveals who is tops in food stakes

Global study ranks countries according to the nutrients in packaged food.

packaged food

The George Institute for Global Health has analysed more than 400,000 food and drink products from 12 countries and territories around the world. The country deemed the healthiest is not Australia. We did not even finish second.

The global survey ranked countries according to our Health Star Rating (HSR) system, which measures the levels of nutrients in terms of energy, salt, sugar and saturated fat, as well as protein, calcium and fibre. It then assigns a star rating from ½ (least healthy) to five (most healthy).

If the UK conjures images of spotted dick and toad in the hole and other similarly stodgy dishes, then think again. It has topped the charts, the US was second and Australia third.

The survey found that the UK had the highest average HSR of 2.83, followed by the US on 2.82 and Australia on 2.81. In the bottom three were Chile (2.44), China (2.43) and India (2.27).

Report lead author Dr Elizabeth Dunford said the results were concerning because packaged foods and drinks were driving a double burden of diet-related diseases in many countries.

“Globally, we’re all eating more and more processed foods and that’s a concern because our supermarket shelves are full of products that are high in bad fats, sugar and salt and are potentially making us sick,” she said.

Co-author and acting executive director of The George Institute Australia Professor Bruce Neal said that with packaged foods progressively dominating the world’s food supply, the results were a real cause for concern.

“Billions of people are now exposed to very unhealthy foods on a daily basis,” he said. “The obesity crisis is just the first ripple of a tsunami of dietary ill-health that is coming for us.

“We have to find a way that the food industry can profit from selling rational quantities of quality food, rather than deluging us with unhealthy junk. There are few greater priorities for human health.”

In Australia, a leading health lawyer and a senior lecturer are agitating for strong national leadership on diet-related health, particularly given that nearly two-thirds of adults here are overweight or obese.

Alexandra Jones and Belinda Reeve say that the Federal Government’s reliance on voluntary measures and its collaborative partnerships with the food industry are failing to produce the desired results.

They say there is evidence that such initiatives suffer from limited uptake by food businesses, a failure to manage commercial conflicts of interest, and a lack of transparency and accountability in governance processes.

“The Health Star Rating, for example, has now been in place for five years but appears on less than one-third of all products, mostly those that score at the upper end of its five-star scale,” they said.

“This limits its value in guiding consumers towards healthier choices.

“The benefits of legislation, in contrast, include mandatory compliance, with legal penalties available for non-compliance, and formal, transparent processes of enactment and amendment.

“The law can reach entire populations and create healthier environments in a way that is significantly more difficult for voluntary measures. This is one reason why 10 countries, including recent adopters Chile, Peru, Israel, Sri Lanka and Uruguay now have mandatory front-of-pack labels.”

Ms Jones and Dr Reeve say that Australia is lagging behind in using the law to improve diet-related health.

“Legal innovations overseas demonstrate that the re-elected Federal Government should give serious consideration to more hard-hitting – and effective – measures on nutrition. Now more than ever, we need legal change that supports Australians in living longer, healthier lives.”

Are you conscientious about looking beyond the star ratings on packaged foods? Do you believe the Government needs to show stronger leadership? Or is it up to the individual?

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    Karl Marx
    29th Aug 2019
    Tells us nothing really. Most people know that fresh food & portion control is the best way to a healthy diet, fruit, vegetables & lean meat are far cheaper in the long run than fast food & processed foods.
    I believe most of the issues we have with children (ADHD etc) are most likely related to processed foods.
    29th Aug 2019
    Yes processed foods is a big problem, filling children up with animal products and processed foods means they do not eat their fruit and veggies which they need for nutrients, also being exposed to many chemicals in the environment and through personal care products also contributes.
    Antibiotics and other medication also destroys good gut bacteria.

    29th Aug 2019
    nanny state nanny state, Just watch the types who go to makkers and have pizzas delivered
    I want to see them crawl eating grass and grubs,They wont have to go to ER at our expense with cholesterol and diabetes problems any more
    29th Aug 2019
    There is way too much packaged food for our convenience.Put a tax packaged food to encourage people to eat healthier alternatives
    29th Aug 2019
    Not going to help, because fruit and veg is cheap when you compare the nutrient quality, a bag of carrots $1.50 at times but they prefer to buy a bag of processed fat salty chips.
    29th Aug 2019
    There is way too much packaged food for our convenience.Put a tax packaged food to encourage people to eat healthier alternatives
    29th Aug 2019
    Fresh food is best, and on that count Australia would have to be near the top of the list. I travel to Asia a lot and it saddens me that they are now importing their fruit and vegetables from mostly the US but also from New Zealand and Australia. Prices are so high that the local population can't afford it and local farmers have given up competing with the cheap imports. So their diet has deteriorated considerably and you need to pay more to live healthily in Asia than it would cost in Europe and to a lesser degree in Australia.
    29th Aug 2019
    How sad that Asia is now importing, I always thought they had an abundance of fresh fruit and veggies but maybe they are processing it to put in packaged food to export or land is getting cleared for growing palms for palm oil.
    29th Aug 2019
    This report is only based on packaged food, and none of it is healthy, if you want to get and stay healthy eat real wholefoods, anything refined is losing it's fiber, and those who eat a lot of fiber are healthier. Animal products do not have fiber so if you do consume them make sure they are the smaller part on your plate.
    29th Aug 2019
    What exactly is meant by 'packaged food'? Is it confined to high salt, low taste items like potato crisps or dried noodles in a soup like concoction. Does it include 'wholesome' items like frozen peas and canned corn or tomatoes? Where do packets of spices, yoghurt, bottles of tomato sauce or 'packaged nuts' fit into the equation. I think the term 'packaged food' is too broad (and please do not tell me Tim Tams are bad for me, surely I must have some sugar).
    29th Aug 2019
    Maybe I should have said "processed foods", but sorry to say Tim Tams are bad for you, have fruit instead, the sugar in fruit is what your body can recognize and get nutrients and energy out of.
    4th Sep 2019
    Eddy we need to have some "naughty" food now and then otherwise we go off the rails completely - everything in moderation and we will be right!
    One or two a day won't rock the boat and it will keep you away from even more stuff not good - myself I have a penchant for Ginger Nuts and I generally have 2-4 a day - only eat breakfast and dinner at night and have lost 30 kilos - so they are not a diet wrecker lol
    30th Aug 2019
    musicveg stick your vegetarian dribble where the sun don't shine. I'm getting sick of it.
    30th Aug 2019
    No need to attack me personally, just don't read my posts!!

    Tags: food, health, obese, fat

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