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Plain packaging won't work for junk food: AIFST

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Leading Australian food industry experts have dismissed the idea that plain packaging on junk foods could be effective in addressing the country's obesity crisis.

The topic was debated at the 46th annual Australian Institute of Food Science Technology Convention in Brisbane yesterday and the panel, comprising a number industry experts, agreed plain packaging would be inappropriate and ineffective.

The panel did discuss a number of other methods of tackling Australia's obesity problem, including:

  • Maximise nutrient quality: "Traditional hunter gatherer diets were driven by cravings and needs. We may be in an age of supermarket foraging but we still have biological needs for certain macro and micronutrients, including antioxidants.

    "When we are eating high calorie, low nutrient foods, there may be a risk that we are overeating in an attempt to meet our nutritional needs. We need to look at maximising nutrient content of foods - both processed and those at the farm gate - to meet our needs and reduce the risk of overeating," said panellist Vic Cherikoff, winner of the 2013 AIFST Food Industry Innovation Award.

  • Greater variety: "We need to both develop and encourage people to eat a greater variety of foods. Eighty percent of the calories we consume come from just eight cereals, sugar and four tubers. We can do better," said Peter Schutz, chair of the Innovation Precinct for the Department of Industry, Innovation and Climate Change.

  •  Regulation that drives innovation: "The new star front of pack labelling system is a great example of an initiative that will motivate the industry to develop innovative solutions for high quality, nutritious food products," said Vijay Rajendram, CEO Neptune BioInnovations

  •  Education: "Despite the rise of the celebrity chef, we are seeing a deskilling in cooking.  It’s led to a general disconnect with food, poor knowledge of what’s in a dish and the amount we should be eating. We desperately need to improve food education," said dietitian professor Sandra Capra, University of Queensland.

  •  Working together:  "Changing food behaviours is complex and the responsibility of all of us – including individuals, parents, health professionals, industry and government. The consumer is the only one who can make choices at an individual level, the food industry needs to ensure the consumer understands the choices they are making, and health professionals and government have a role to play in guiding those choices," said Wayne Hammermeister, managing director of FMCG Executive Services.

  •  Investing in our future: "The industry needs to put more investment into tertiary education to ensure Australia’s universities are producing the graduates the food industry needs to drive the innovation that will address Australia’s future food issues, including obesity," said James Thomas, Kelly Scientific Resources.

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