INSIDE OUR QUICK SERVICE RESTAURANTS 2018
Australians spend nearly 32% of their household food budget on fast food and eating out, and the average fast food meal contains almost half of an adult's recommended daily energy intake. The policies and actions of the quick service restaurant industry can have a significant impact on population diets
Inside Our Quick Service Restaurants 2018 assessed the largest Australian quick service restaurants on their policies and commitments related to obesity prevention and nutrition.
The majority of the largest quick service restaurants in Australia do not publicly identify nutrition and health as a focus area. Across the sector, there is limited disclosure of company efforts to address obesity and population nutrition issues.
Areas in a number of Australian quick service restaurants have demonstrated some commitment:
Product formulation: Taking some action / making commitments to reformulate menu items to reduce levels of nutrients of concern (5 out of 11 companies)
Menu labelling: Committing to implement kilojoule menu board labelling across all states and territories (6 out of 11 companies)
Nutrition information: Providing comprehensive nutrition information online for the majority of products (all companies)
Key recommendations for quick service restaurants:
1| Corporate strategy: Prioritise obesity prevention and population nutrition as part of the overall company strategy, and align the company’s obesity prevention and nutrition-related policies with global health and sustainability goals
2| Product formulation: Set measurable targets and timelines to reduce sodium, free sugars, saturated fat, artificially produced trans fat and meal portion sizes, in conjunction with government-led initiatives (e.g., Healthy Food Partnership) to improve the overall food supply
3| Nutrition labelling: Implement kilojoule labelling on menu boards across all states/territories, and support the development of standardised interpretive nutrition labelling (e.g., using health stars or colour-coding) for menu boards
4| Promotion to children and adolescents
Implement a policy on marketing to children that effectively restricts the exposure of children and adolescents (up to the age of 18) to the promotion of ‘less healthy’ foods/brands
For companies with revenue dominated by ‘less healthy’ menu items, commit to not sponsor sporting and community events that are popular with children and families and eliminate use of promotion techniques (e.g., toys in children’s meals, cartoon characters, interactive games) with strong appeal to children in relation to ‘less healthy’ products and brands
5| Product availability: Commit to make ‘healthier’ and lower kilojoule meal options (e.g., ‘healthier’ sides and drinks) the default option, particularly as part of children’s meals
6| Product affordability: Introduce a pricing strategy that positions ‘healthier’ products at a similar or lower price to ‘less healthy’ equivalents, and restrict price promotions and value deal incentives on ‘less healthy’ items
Conclusion and implications
While some Australian quick service restaurants have taken some positive steps as part of a societal response to unhealthy diets and obesity, there is a much greater role for the sector to play.
Companies need to elevate the importance of nutrition as part of their overall strategy, and commit to implement a broad range of actions to improve the healthiness of Australian food environments. Industry associations, such as the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), and government initiatives, such as the Healthy Food Partnership, can support individual companies to adopt this report’s recommendations and coordinate company action across the sector.
Governments need to closely monitor the implementation of company policies and commitments related to obesity prevention and nutrition, and consider stronger policy intervention where voluntary company actions are insufficient. Other stakeholder groups, including investors, need to monitor company progress.
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