NCWQ Nutrition Annual Report: 2018

By Val Cocksedge

NCWQ Nutrition Adviser

Australia’s health, well-being and productivity are being threatened by an epidemic of weight-related illness. 63.4% of Australian adults are above a healthy weight, with 27.9% obese and 35.5% overweight. More that a quarter (27%) of Australian children are overweight or obese. Australia, like many countries, is seeing an increase in diseases stemming from these factors – including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancers.

There is unequivocal evidence that the marketing of unhealthy foods and sugar-laden beverages is related to childhood obesity. Dr Gary Sacks, Deakin University, says Australians spend 32% of their food budget on takeaways and eating out with unhealthy diets, thus creating a public health issue. It is estimated that in 2009, food companies spent $402 million and $149 million respectively on food and non-alcoholic drink advertising in Australia – targeting children through advertising across a number of different platforms and using a variety of integrated techniques, influencing children’s food preferences, purchase requests and consumption patterns.

Australians are eating too much saturated fat, salt and added sugar in discretionary foods. WHO recommends that as part of a comprehensive strategy to tackle overweight and obesity issues, member countries implement front-of-pack labelling systems supported by public education programs for adults and children to improve attitudes and behaviour around diet, physical activity and sedentary behaviour.

In September 2017, thirty four leading community, public health, medical and academic groups united in calling on the Federal Government to address the serious obesity problem with a new action plan called “Tipping the Scales” highlighting eight areas where action is required.

In an effort to encourage Queenslanders to improve their food intake, the Queensland Government has run several programs on TV and newspapers e.g. Give Colour a Spin, outlining the value of different fruits and vegetables.  The Try for 5 program encourages Australians to increase vegetable consumption to the recommended 5 serves per day. Supermarkets are taking up the challenge to eat more fruit, with baskets of free fruit.

There is a global war on unhealthy food ads. There are 1100 junk food ads on TV that 5-8 year-olds will be exposed to in a year. To continue to make products tasty for consumers, recipes, food products and restaurant meals designed to be “low fat” are substituting with sugar, salt and other miscellaneous ingredients.

Junk food companies spend 27 times more on advertising than the government does on promoting healthy eating. The average Australian consumes 60g (14 teaspoons) of sugar each day. Sugar replacements reduce kilojoules but do not address people’s preference for sweet foods.

Food companies do not have to declare how much sugar is added to their products – there are 42 different types of sugar food manufacturers can use. Choice has been calling on food and health ministers to support labelling of added sugar. For more information view to call for clear and transparent sugar labelling.

Energy drinks have become the choice of Australian kids and with fruit juices and cordials laden with sugars contributing to dental problems and weight gain. Some drinks contain 15-20 teaspoons of sugar. Red Bull with a similar caffeine to a cup of coffee contains 27.5g of sugar. The AMA is reigniting its plea for a tax on sugary drinks. Members of the Australian Beverages Council have vowed to cut the amount of sugar used across the industry by 10% by 2020 and 20% by 2025. Products include soft drinks, energy drinks, frozen products, juices, fruit drinks, cordials, iced teas, coffee milk products. Some drinks with the highest sugar levels, including Coke, will instead ramp up low sugar alternatives and reduce some serving sizes.

Research published in the Medical Journal of Australia estimated that Australian adults are eating 9.6g of salt a day, well above the WHO recommended 5g a day. Almost 80% of Australian children are eating too much salt – the recommended daily allowance for children 4-8 years is 3.5g. Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure – a risk factor for stroke, heart attack and chronic kidney disease. About 75% of the salt we consume is from processed foods – bread, breakfast cereals, crackers, simmer sauces, processed meats, cheese, soups, instant noodles and other “ready” meals. Eating more fresh foods and fewer processed foods is a start to lower our salt intake. Choose lower salt options on packaged foods – check sodium content on the nutrition information panel. One gram of salt contains 400mg of sodium. Food with less than 400 mg of salt per 100g is a good choice.

“Need for Feed” is a food and nutrition program run out-of-school hours and currently available to all schools. The skills-based program, managed by Diabetes Queensland, is funded by the Queensland Government. It is a practical, hands-on cooking program providing students with the opportunity to gain confidence, master skills and enjoy healthy foods. After school and on weekends in schools all over Queensland, a dedicated teacher and a group of students take advantage of 20 hours of cooking and nutrition education. Post program statistics show that 82% of participants feel confident to cook a meal at home, have improved their nutrition literacy and reported an increase in use of fruit and vegetables.

The theme of World Food Day 2017 – was “Invest in Food Security and Rural Development”. National Nutrition Week is held 15 – 21 October each year. In what is believed to be a world first, scientists from UQ are producing purple corn-on-the-cob for cardiovascular health; folate-packed strawberries to boost the nervous system and pre-natal benefits; and macadamias with more healthy fats. An international team, including the CSIRO, has developed a new type of wheat with ten times the amount of fibres of normal wheat, to help improve gut health, fight bowel cancer and type 2 diabetes. The wheat will be processed into flour and incorporated into a range of food products. The western world is looking for plant-based protein. The Goondiwindi-based Woods Group are overseeing products made from pulses, including fava beans and chickpeas. They are about to unleash the chocolate-coated chickpea – puffed with air pressure, covered with chocolate – a healthy version of the Malteser?

Yatala-based Frosty Boy plans to roll out the Philippines cheese and yam flavoured ice cream. A range of desserts is made using coconut combined with pandan leaves, tasting similar to vanilla. Frosty Boy exports its powder-based soft serve to more than 50 countries.

Queen Garnet plums, hailed as a superfood, have 3-6 times the antioxidant level of blueberries. Developed by plant breeders for the Queensland Government a decade ago, they are now grown in all States for the farming co-op Nutrafruit.

The United Nations projects that due to the rising global population, there will be a call for dramatic increase in food production. Suggested solutions include farming infrastructure; increasing farming yields; reform and commercialising agricultural industries in Africa and India; changing the way people buy and consume food; and decreasing waste. A plant-based meat start-up – Beyond Meat – backed by Bill Gates, is on a mission to replace animal protein with plant protein. The Beyond Burger is made from simple, plant-based ingredients – peas provide protein, traces of beetroot provide the beefy, red colour, coconut oil and potato starch ensure the burger’s juiciness. The patty cooks and tastes like a fresh burger and is becoming popular in selected US supermarkets.

A report released by Aust 21, an independent not-for-profit think tank, predicts algae farming could become a major industry in regional economies, providing a range of products such as livestock feed, health foods, plastics, textiles, paper, petro-chemicals and biofuels. Algae is already hailed as a superfood by health and food experts for its nutritional and environmental benefits and has been a staple diet item in Japan, Korea and China – many consuming seaweed, edible algae in sushi, miso soup and as dried snacks.

Gene Ethics campaigns to help farmers and shoppers mobilise for more control of our seed and food supplies. Merged GM and agrochemical giants Bayer/Monsanto, ChemChina Syngenta and Dow/Dupont (now Corteva) control 70% of the world’s commercial seed, including all GM varieties and 60% of agrochemicals. Over 95% of Australian farmers are still GM free – a selling point for our clean, green food.

Agriculture and chemical supplier and seeds developer, Nufarm, has approval for its world-first plant-based source of long chain omega-3 fatty acids. The company predicts its GM modified omega-3 canola will help ease pressure on wild fish stocks, currently the source of long chain omega-3, essential for human and fish health. FSANZ has approved its use in food for humans and the Australian Office of Gene Technology Regulator for use in animal feed.


Nutrition Report, September 2017

By Val Cocksedge OAM

NCWQ Nutrition Adviser

New UN Decade: The General Assembly decided 2016-2015 will be the Decade of Action on Nutrition, recognising the need to eradicate hunger and prevent all forms of malnutrition world-wide, particularly under nourishment; stunting; wasting; underweight and overweight in children under 5 years of age. It also states the rising trend in overweight/obesity should be reversed and the burden of diet-related, non-communicable diseases in all age groups be reduced. (Refer FAO website:

Australia’s obesity epidemic cannot be denied or ignored. Alarming statistics show that 63% or just under 2 in 3 adults are so overweight they are classified as obese and 1 in 4 young people already obese. There are 1.4 million Australians with type 2 diabetes. The financial, personal and social costs cannot be ignored – our rising health bill increases by $56 million with people suffering diet-related diseases.

A 47-point obesity action plan drawn up by up to 100 nutrition experts from 53 organisations in conjunction with governments would ban junk food in schools and sports venues (A crackdown on using junk food vouchers as rewards for sporting performance and for fund-raising); put pressure of state government to improve the healthiness of foods in settings controlled by them – hospital, workplaces and government events, also changes in urban planning rules to restrict unhealthy food venues and to make space for healthy food outlets. Australians receiver 35% of their energy from discretionary foods which include fried food, processed meats, soft drinks, confectionary – for those aged 14 – 18 the number rises to 40%.

Half of all Australians are exceeding WHO recommendation that they consume less than 13 teaspoons of sugar a day – with most hidden in soft drinks, processed foods (cereals, pre-prepared meal choices, baked beans, yoghurts, soups etc.)

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Health Survey shows it is time for politicians to put the interest of people’s health above food industry lobbyists. The UK will introduce a sugar tax next year. Chile has passed a number of laws to curb the country’s high obesity level, particularly among children. They have an 18% tax on sugary drinks, warnings on any packaged food wrappers that exceeds a set amount of kilojoules, sodium, sugar and saturated fat. Mexico imposed a sugar tax 3 years ago and has recorded a drop of 12% in the consumption of sugary drinks. A sugar tax on beverages in California saw a drop of 9.6% sales.

A new Choice investigation has revealed that labelling of added sugar could help consumers avoid 26 teaspoons of unnecessary sugar per day and up to 38 kg a year. However, these savings can only be achieved with true and meaningful information. There are 42 different names for added sugar – e.g. dextrose, sucrose, fructose, invert sugar, muscovado, lactose, palm sugar, agave nectar/syrup, molasses, coconut palm sugar etc.

At their most recent meeting, food ministers from states, territories and federal government renewed their commitment to improve the health of Australians. They want more information and research on sugar labelling before they make their decision in November of this year. If you wish to add your voice to clearer labelling, join the campaign at

Energy/sports drinks and sugar-laden soft drinks have been removed from sale at Caboolture hospital; Lady Cilento is pushing for a ban on soft drinks sales, removing soft drinks from vending machines and eateries. Other metro north hospitals are expected to reduce the availability and size of sugary drinks by the end of the year.

World Food Day is 16 October, with the theme – “Try for 5”, encouraging the inclusion of fruits and vegetables in the daily diet.

The world population is expected to soar to 8 billion by 2025. Demand for protein is set to skyrocket. With many suggesting meat production is environmentally and economically unsustainable at the high levels needed, it is believed the alternative source of protein – chickpeas – may provide the answer. High quality chickpeas help lower cholesterol. The UN declared 2016 the “International year of Pulses”, which saw India’s appetite for Queensland’s  clean, green chickpea crop soar.

The quality of Australian’s toddlers’ diet has been found to deteriorate between the ages of 14 to 24 months as they consume foods high in salt and fat rather than fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and meat. The nation’s peak body of nutrition is calling for an overhaul of university campus food after a study highlighted the high level of snacks and drinks students buy from vending machines. The Dietetics Association of Australia report found 95% of snacks and 49% drinks were high in kilojoules – at odds with nurturing academic performance.

With new research there is evidence the benefits of a Mediterranean Diet can slow down cognitive decline as well as improving heart health. (Frontiers in Nutrition Journal). The main foods in a Mediterranean Diet include plant food – leafy greens, fresh fruit and vegetables, cereals, beans, seeds, nuts and legumes. It is lower in dairy, has minimum red meat and uses olive oil as its source of fat. Researchers from the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Melbourne Swinburne University of Technology analysed data from 2006-2015 found that attention, language and memory were positively affected by the inclusion of the Mediterranean Diet.

The Queensland government is encouraging the consumption of different coloured fruit and vegetables with different nutrients and health benefits – helping give your body vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants it needs to stay healthy by developing a coloured wheel “Give Colour a Spin” shown on TV and in the newspapers. Discover more at You can spin the coloured recipe wheel for a variety of coloured-coded recipes.

Other Queensland government advertisements in newspapers include “Multivitamins are no substitute for Fruit and Vegetables”; “Coconut oil (popular with food bloggers),is not the healthiest type of oil – high saturated fat-raising blood cholesterol and links to heart disease.” The Free Fruit for Kids Program with baskets of complimentary seasonal fruits placed in the supermarket giants aims to encourage children to eat more fruit.

Second Bite was founded to provide fresh, nutritious food for people across Australia and to reduce the amount of food being wasted. Food Bank Queensland collects food for 300 welfare agencies and 200 school breakfast programs.

Palm Oil has more than 50% of saturated fat and can raise cholesterol. Manufacturers at present are not required to distinguish the vegetable oil used in their products. The UN estimates that this product is used in about half of all packaged goods. More than 80% of palm oil comes from SE Asia where forests that house the already endangered orang-utans are destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations. In the US and European Union products using palm oil must be clearly labelled.

Recently invented GM techniques (CRISPR; ZFN; TALENs, RNA; Gene Drives now dominate biotechnology research and commercial development. Using new GM methods, all living things are being genetically manipulated, monopoly patented and owned and could soon be released without regulation or labelling. Only GM canola and cotton are grown in Australia on a small scale. Over 95% of Australian farmers are GM free and GM canola earns big premiums. Tasmania, South Australia, ACT and NT remain proudly GM free. GM-free shopping lists are available at

Nutrition Report March 2017

By Val Cocksedge

NCWQ Nutrition Adviser

New U.N. Decade – General Assembly decides 2016-2025 will be the Decade of Action on Nutrition, recognising the need to eradicate hunger and prevent all forms of malnutrition worldwide, particularly under-nourishment, stunting, wasting, underweight and overweight in children under five years of age. It also states that the rising trend in overweight and obesity should be reversed and the burden of diet related, non-communicable diseases in all age groups be reduced. Refer FAO Website:

The tenth Annual Australia’s Healthy Weight Week (AHWW) held 13-19th February was run by the Dieticians Association of Australia (DAA). The campaign aimed to inspire Australians towards good health to help them achieve and maintain their healthiest weight possible.

World Home Economics Day – 20 March. Theme is Home Economics Literacy – Empowering for Healthy and Sustainable Lifestyles. Refer:

Australia’s obesity epidemic cannot be denied or ignored. Alarming statistics show that 63% of adults and one in 4 children are overweight with some classified as obese. This is of national concern with financial personal and social cost. Our health bill is $56 billion more than it would be otherwise. There are 1.4 million Australians with Type2 diabetes – a tally added to with newly diagnosed cases every day.

Australian adults are getting 35% of their energy from discretionary foods which include desserts, confectionery, fried food, processed meats and soft drinks. For those aged 14-18 the number rises to 40%.

The 47% point obesity action plan was drawn up by 100 nutrition experts from 53 organisations in conjunction with state and federal government staff.

Junk food would be banned from schools and sports venues and a sugar drink tax introduced under a blueprint to control the nation’s weight problem. The 47 point blueprint also includes a plan and crackdown on using junk food vouchers as rewards for sporting performance and for fund raising. State governments would be compelled to improve the healthiness of foods in settings controlled by them – such as hospitals, work places and government events. Also changes in urban planning rules to restrict unhealthy food venues and to make more space available for healthy food outlets.

The review of state and federal food labelling advertising and health policies found huge variations across the country and experts want it corrected by a National Nutrition Policy.

Half of all Australians are exceeding World Health Organisations (WHO) recommendation – they consume less than 13 teaspoons of sugar a day. With most hidden in drinks and processed foods (Australian Bureau of Statistics Health Survey) research says its time for politicians to put the interest of people and their health above food industry lobbyists. The U.K. will introduce a sugar tax next year. Chile has passed a number of laws to curb the country’s high obesity rate, particularly among children.

They have an 18% tax on sugary drinks. They have packaging warnings on any packaged food that exceeds a certain amount of kilojoules, sodium, sugar or saturated fat. Foods with a warning sign cannot be sold in schools or advertised to children under 14. They cannot be sold with a toy, resulting in McDonalds modifying its children’s meals to still be eligible to include toys in their promotions. Mexico imposed a sugar tax 3 years ago and has recorded a drop of 12% in consumption of sugary drinks.

The Health Minister, Greg Hunt said the government did not support a new tax on sugar. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor had no plans on a sugar tax but called on governments to review junk food advertising, particularly at peak periods where children get the wrong message about food and healthy eating. The Greens Plan to introduce a private Senator’s Bill for a tax on sugar – sweetened drinks similar to the one proposed in the U.K.

The American Heart Association said children should have only 3 teaspoons of added sugar in their diet. A single can of soft drink contains approximately 12 teaspoons, baked beans – 5 teaspoons, muesli bar 6-7.

The children’s Lady Cilento Hospital in Brisbane, is pushing for a ban on soft drink sales at the hospital and is intent on removing soft drinks from vending machines and eateries.

The quality of Australian toddlers’ diet has been found to deteriorate between the age of 14 and 24 months as they consume foods high in salt and fat rather than vegetables, fruit, whole grains and meat.

There is evidence the benefits of a Mediterranean Diet with new research showing it can slow down cognitive decline as well as improving heart health. (Journal Frontiers in Nutrition). The main foods in the Mediterranean (Med Diet) include plant foods (leafy greens, fresh fruit and vegetables, cereals, beans, seeds, nuts, legumes). It is lower in dairy, has minimum red meat and uses olive oil as its source of fat. Researches from the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Melbourne Swinburne University of Technology analysed data from 2000 – 2015 found attention, language and memory were positively affected by the Med Diet.

The Queensland government is encouraging consumption of different coloured fruit and vegetables with different nutrients and health benefits – helping give your body vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants it needs to stay healthy developing a coloured wheel – “Give Colour a Spin” shown on TV and in newspapers: discover more at: You can spin the colour recipe wheel for a variety of colour coded recipes.

The Free Fruit for Kids Program, with baskets of complimentary seasonal fruits placed n all 961 of the supermarket giants national stores to encourage children to eat more fruit and vegetables.

Second Bite was founded to provide fresh nutritious food for people in need across Australia and to reduce amount of food being thrown away. Coles joined Second Bite in 2011 with more than 600 Coles Supermarkets regularly donating fresh fruit, vegetables and bread to Second Bite.

Foodbank Queensland collects food for 300 welfare agencies and 200 school breakfast programs.

The AMA has urged transparency in food labelling laws to a forum of Australian and New Zealand Health Ministers.

Palm oil has more than 50% saturated fat and can raise cholesterol. Manufacturers at present are not required to distinguish the vegetable oil used in their products. The United Nations estimates that the product is used in about half of all packaged goods. More than 80% of palm oil comes from S.E.Asia where forests that house, already endangered orang-utans are being destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations. In the U.S. and European Union products using palm oil must be clearly labelled.

Vegemite is in Australian hands after almost 91 years in foreign ownership. N.S.W. Dairy company Bega Cheese bought the breakfast favourite from Mondelez International a former Kraft subsidiary. The deal includes Goo Sh and Bonox together with other products that use the Kraft Brand under licence (peanut butter, cheese spreads, processed slices, mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, Kraft Mac & Cheese).

According to the Dieticians Association of Australia, a national survey of 1033 Australians, nearly half had tried to lose weight and half of those did so by spending their money on specific diet or diet program. Many popular diets come with meal plans and programs; priced up to $200 for 8 weeks. Coconut oil pops up on many popular diets, but its around four times the cost of healthy olive oil. Sugar alternatives such as maple syrup costing more without saving any kilojoules. Products following health trends – paleo and protein bars costing approximately $3 for a 40g bar. bar – preferable an apple at 80 cents or other fruit. Watermelon, thirst quenching, full of beta carotene and vitamin C plus the antioxidant lycopene (shown to reduce stroke) boosts the immune system while fruit salad helps the body absorb calcium for strong bones.

Natural Evolution’s green banana flour (a blessing for gluten free cooks) resistant starch can improve gut health and vital for the body’s ability to access nutrients and build strong immunity. Mt Uncle’s banana flour owners and developers have linked a deal with partners in the U.K. to set up the Natural Evolution business in Europe. The North Queensland factory turns out 500 tonnes of flour a week.

The Queensland Garnet plum was developed by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries. The 6 Queenslanders at Nutrafruit hope to turn it into a global success with the fruits power in anthocyanin, a strong antioxidant. Research of University of South Queensland on rats found the plum reduced blood pressure, improved health and liver function and aided weight loss.

Nutrition Report October 2015

By Val Cocksedge
NCWQ Nutrition Adviser

The theme for 2015 World Food Day – 16th October is “Social Protection and Agriculture – Breaking the Cycle of rural poverty”. Social protection has been chosen as the theme to highlight its importance in reducing rural poverty and granting access to food or means to buy food.

In Australia, National nutrition Week runs from 11-17 October and is encouraging Australians to “Pick Right” and “Feel Right” by committing to eating 5 serves of vegetables every day for one week. Recent statistics show that nearly 95% of all Australians do not eat the recommended amount of vegetables. The average Australian eats less than half what is recommended (5 serves), yet around one third of what is eaten is “take-away” foods, cakes, sweets and sugary foods.

The Department of Health has announced the release of a new “Eat for Health” resource – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Guide to Healthy Eating. The new Indigenous guide is intended to be used by health professionals and educators throughout Australia for use in a range of Indigenous Community settings and will complement the existing Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Print copies are available in A4 and A1 format at

Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food Mobile Kitchen Courses started 29 October at Q.U.T. Kelvin Grove Campus at a cost of $10-$20 per class. Hands on classes teach simple healthy delicious meals. The basic 5 week cooking course consists of 90 minutes per class per week. For more information visit:

Sports drinks are being blamed for contributing to a “silent epidemic” of tooth erosion in Queensland due to their high sugar levels and acidity. The drinks eroded enamel leading to sensitivity, yellowing teeth, prone to cavities and obesity. Almost 40% of construction workers drink large quantities of energy drinks despite the emerging health risks associated with excessive consumption of caffeine and sugar. These products are now banned from some sites.

The Wold Food Organisation (FAO) recommends we limit our intake of “free” or added sugars to no more than 10% of our total energy intake, in order to reduce our risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay.

74% of all packaged food has sugar added in some form. In Australia, the total amount of sugar is a product is listed in the N.I.P. (Nutrition Information Panel), but it does not differentiate sugars that have been added by the manufacturer from those that are intrinsic in the food (lactose in milk). The higher up the ingredients list, the more sugar the product contains. One of the recommendations from the 2011 Food Labelling Review was that “the term “added sugars” be included in the ingredient list as the general term followed by a bracketed list with further details e.g. added sugars (fructose, glucose, syrup, honey etc.) Added sugars can include 42 different names e.g. “agave nectar, syrup, beet sugar, carob syrup, corn syrup, demerarra, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, molasses, palm sugar, coconut sugar, treacle, rice malt syrup, muscovado, maple syrup, sucrose to name a few.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand is currently providing technical advice to ministers on the 2011 recommendation, to be voted on soon. Do you agree that added sugars should be identified on ingredient lists? If so join the campaign

According to U.S. research high fructose drinks such as fruit juice and fizzy soft drinks do not give the brain signs of fullness. Coca-Cola Amatil last year introduced a smaller 250 ml can. In the face of consumers demanding more healthy choices and decline in profit, Coke Life (a blend of sugar and stevia leaf extract) was introduced this year. (10 teaspoons sugar again against 16 in regular Coke) Sprite (18 teaspoons), V (13 teaspoons).

Drink water instead (water is essential for everyday functioning of the body – digestive system, kidneys, skin, lungs) Tiredness is often a symptom of dehydration.

Recently so called “sugar free” cook books have been released. The recipes use rice malt syrup, molasses, maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar (refer to above list of added sugars)

The foods most available to us are determined by a few multinational companies intent on growth and profit leading to foods offered high in sugar, fat and salt. They determine the portion we eat through their packaging and have convinced us that pleasure comes from eating “junk” food.

Fast food outlets are strategically placed on busy routes, the end of supermarket aisles, service stations, drive-throughs, sporting clubs, newsagencies, vending machines, hospitals, canteens and school fund-raising all offer convenience with readily available food and drink of poor nutritional value – often high in sugar, fat and salt.

A recent review from the Murdock Children’s’ Research Institute found childhood obesity had doubled since the 1980s and now sits at more than 25%. Children are now more technology immersed instead of being active, playing outside, involved in sport, joining in outdoor activities.

A study at Deakin University and ANU found that the part of the brain used for leaning, memory and mental health is smaller in people with poor diets showing that diet is critically important to mental health as sell as physical health.

Chronic Illness is blowing the Health budget – preventable diseases including diabetes, heart and obesity related conditions, mental illness. About 14 million Australians are now overweight or obese – continuing to eat processed, low nutrient food and drink and remaining inactive. Reports show 280 Australians are diagnosed with diabetes every day with 9 in 10, being type 2 diabetes. High blood glucose is the main culprit and can cause damage to the eye, impair kidney function and damage nerves and large blood vessels in the body causing high blood pressure and cardio-vascular disease. The treatment for type 2 diabetes is usually tablets with important life style treatment of healthy diet and regular exercise.

Food Revolution Day – 15 May 2015 was a global campaign to put compulsory practical food education in school curriculum. Worldwide, there are 42 million children under 5 who are overweight or obese with diet related illnesses among the world’s biggest killers. Jamie Oliver passionately believes

that by educating children about food in a fun and engaging way, can equip them with the basic skills they need to lead healthier, happier lives for themselves and their future families. Jamie launched a    petition calling on all G20 countries to make practical food education a compulsory part of every school curriculum. Some positives are being taken –

  • In England – the School Food Plan made cooking lessons and food education compulsory.
  • In Mexico, all schools promote healthy eating through compulsory nutrition education (General Law on Education)
  • Food education has been part of the curriculum in Japan since 2005 and Finland has a long history of Home Economics.

In Australia, the Home Economics Institute of Australia Education Standing Committee has pressed for the inclusion of food and nutrition across the curriculum. Good practical and compulsory food education should be available in every school for every child. Children to-day are the first generation predicted to have shorter lives than their parents.

New “Made in Australia” food labels could be seen on packs as soon as the end of the year. They include – “Made in Australia from 100% Australian ingredients”; “Made in Australia from more than 50% of Australian ingredients”; “Made in Australia from 0% Australian ingredients”; “Grown in Australia”; “Packed in Australia”; “Made in ……………..”; ”Packed in Australia – grown in ………………..”. All labels will be shown with the gold kangaroo in the green triangle at the top, followed by a graph showing the Australian content in gold with description below. Unfortunately, they do not show the origin of non- Australian ingredients which is important when making the decision to support Australian product and producers. There may be concern about the chemicals and pesticides permitted for food production in some countries and the environmental impact of transporting food from distant places.

Supermarkets claim they are committed to local sourcing of their food products. For a full list of products reviewed their country of origin statements as well as where Aldi, Coles, Woolworths source their fresh fruit and vegetable see:

Healthy Eating: Start 2015 Right

By Val Cocksedge

NCWQ Nutrition Adviser


Adult obesity levels in Queensland are the highest in Australia with the fifth Health of Queenslanders report indicating a third of adults are obese, another third overweight with a disturbing spike in chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Two thirds of adults have high cholesterol with many untreated and one third with high blood pressure. There is a need to balance physical activity with the quantity of nutritious foods that meet energy needs. The public generally needs to limit the intake of energy-rich, nutrient-poor foods that are high in saturated fat, added salt and sugars, to include a wide variety of vegetables (different types and colours) legumes, beans, fruit, grain (mainly wholegrain) or high cereal fibre varieties including breads, cereals, pasta, couscous, oats, quinoa, lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds, milk, yoghurt, cheese (mostly fat reduced). Reduced fat milks are not suitable for children under 2 years. Drink plenty of water. Deficiency in nutrients such as iodine, folate, iron, Vitamin D is also a concern for some.

Some employers are leading the way in promoting health and well-being among staff.

Only one third of Queensland fast-food and snack outlets display the kilojoule content of their foods. NSW, SA and the ACT have legislation requiring the larger “chain” stores to display kilojoule content on the menus.

The Australian Medical Association of Queensland wants a ban on fast food outlets opening with 1 kilometre of new schools and for subsidies for fruit and vegetables in high risk communities.

Research from Curtin University found almost four-fifths of FIFO workers are overweight or obese, with 42 cents in the dollar spent on food going to fast-food outlets and restaurants. The food chains, market research before opening up outlets with more chains such as Subway, Guzman, Miss India and Noodle box moving into some areas.

Jamie Oliver’s Good Food 10 week program has found that the participants’ daily vegetable consumption and confidence in cooking were sustained over 6 months after the program finished (in a Deakin University study). The Good Guys and the Queensland Government co-founded the Ministry of Food program.

A “life changing” free state government program PEACH, has seen many changes in lifestyle, food selection. The program is open to families

Some primary schools and secondary school Home Economics class rooms are showcasing healthy food options and using ingredients from their own gardens, encouraging students to learn new skills and try new foods laying down a pattern for life.

A sports loyalty program is one of a number of promotions pilloried by parents concerned how “junk food” firms are targeting children taking part in healthy activities e.g. netballers to conserve quantities of fizzy drinks high in sugar to earn a set of seven sports tops (Coca Cola) and a basketball (Powerade). Teenagers and children become brand ambassadors for the company sharing this via their social media profile.

Supermarkets are adding sushi bars and cafes to the usual bakery and deli counters. In 20 years, as the role of shopping centres come community hubs, there will be more foods from S.E.

Asia, Middle East reflecting our cultural diversity.

Thousands of tonnes of perfectly good food is thrown away each year because of appearance. It is a scandal considering there are 850 million people in the world, chronically undernourished.

A Queensland ‘not-for-profit’ outlet is doing its part to help overcome waste. Foodbank, set up in 1967 by the then Lord Mayor Clem Jones, operates from a large warehouse in Colmslie which is stacked with an astonishing range of perfectly good fruit and vegetables, tinned and packaged food, milk and dairy products that are superfluous to the needs of retailers and wholesalers. Floodbank distributes 10 million kilos of food each year to 300 charities feeding 100,000 a week. School breakfast program receive $70,000 of food. Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, I.G.A. donate tonnes of packaged and canned foods; farmers from the Lockyer Valley are generous as are Mackay banana growers.

On the superfood frontier are “Chia Pods”- a range of ready-to-eat meals containing chia, fruit, coconut milk plus varieties with muesli and oats. Chia provides soluble and non-soluble fibre, protein, and omega-3. It is promoted as just a tablespoon a day can make a difference to your health.

Growers have produced a way to encourage people to eat more sprouts. British experts spent 15 years perfecting kalettes by crossbreeding brussel sprouts with kale-the result a sprout with dark curly leaves with a milder sweeter taste. They can be boiled, steamed, roasted, stir-fried, grilled or even eaten raw.

Gina Rhinehart owns a 70% share in Hope Dairies. The partner is state owned China National Machinery Industry Corporation. The operation will export up to 30,000 tonnes of milk powder to China. Australia’s Freedom Foods Group has signed a memorandum of understanding with the chinese New Hope Group to develop a long term supply, with the establishment of the new large-scale farms in S.E. Australia. New Hope, is one of the largest suppliers of meat, eggs and dairy products in China, has $500 million to be used in the development of agriculture and food processing in Australia.

1989 saw the heart Foundation launch its Heart Tick Foundation, now 25 years later in 2014 the Heart Foundation is reviewing its formula in light of the government’s new health Star Rating-the more stars the better. Will Food Ratings help us make healthier choices?

The Health Star Rating (HSR) system was initiated by the Federal Government to rank food products on a scale of half a star to 5 stars-the more stars the better. The number of stars is determined by a formula that takes into account the type of the food, its calories, its ‘negative’ nutrients (saturated fats, sugars and salt) and the ‘positive’ nutrients (protein, fibre and concentrations of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts per 100g or 100ml) “The formula is best designed to compare foods in the same category” Catherine Saxelby says “so you can compare e,g, breakfast cereals, but it is not useful to compare the stars on a tub of yoghurt with a pack of nuts.”

The system was created for packaged foods. You won’t see it on items that would not be consumed on their own e.g. flour, vinegar, tea, coffee, alcohol.   The HSR scheme is currently voluntary so manufacturers can decide whether to adopt it or continue to use the voluntary Daily Intake Guide (%DI) graphic on packaging. They have until January to choose-the system will be reviewed in mid 2016.

Queensland Health is investigating the rise in gastro-intestinal illnesses across the state. About 11,350 food borne illnesses were confirmed in the 12 months food borne illnesses were confirmed in the 12 months of 2014. A lack of basic kitchen hygiene, poorly stored or prepared food are likely to be the cause. This year there have been reports of food poisoning from foods / ingredients supplied to restaurants and pre-packaged products. Council officers have fined owners for breaches of the Food Act.

The present recall of frozen berries, after reports of hepatitis A has been dealt with in my Consumer Affairs Report also. Hepatitis A is transmitted by the ‘faecal-oral’ route and experts believe the berries may have been contaminated by food handlers not washing hands or the use of contaminated water.

In the past 6 months, nearly 200 foods bound for Australian supermarkets contained contaminants that cause miscarriage, cholera, hepatitis A and other harmful effects. Cases of listeria threaten pregnant women and the elderly, shipments of prawns with a cholera-causing organism and Ecoli in shipments of cheese were already cleared for sale. Seafood, cheeses, nuts, dietary supplements, goji berries, coconut oil, satay sauce failed testing as they came ashore from July to December last year. Foods in the low-risk category were released for sale before test results were known – cheese with Ecoli, prawns containing banned antibiotics, vegetable with banned insecticides were on shelves before warning bells rang.

Most importers voluntarily hold food shipments until the test results are known (test results take 10 days) The amount of testing varies considerably to as low as 5% (details in Consumer Affairs Report)

The Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce has called for new labelling so consumers can see how much of the product is grown in Australia. He is asking for diagrammatic, simple, proportional and compulsory labelling in the form of pie charts so that consumers can easily determine how much is Australian grown.

Adviser Report NCWQ Nutrition Feb 2015

The Importance of Nutrition

By Val Cocksedge

NCWQ Nutrition Adviser


The early childhood years are important in laying the foundation for future health and well-being. Eating patterns, preferences and behaviours learnt in early childhood may be sustained into adult life. Recent reports, however, suggest that in general, children’s diets are not meeting the healthy guidelines due to inadequate consumption of fruit and vegetables and excessive consumption of saturated fat, sugar and salt (Ros Sambel, Dr. Amanda Devine and Dr.Johnny Leo) – paper presented at the 2014 HEIA Conference.

The Dieticians Association of Australia (DAA) maintains breakfast helps you maintain a healthy weight. Eating a healthy breakfast means you are less likely to snack on high-energy, high fat foods. A healthy breakfast provides energy and leads to a higher intake of essential nutrients (carbohydrates, dietary fibre, certain vitamins and minerals). Eating breakfast has been linked to an improvement in literacy and numeracy in school children.

Many people eat badly because far too much of their energy is provided by nutritionally worthless junk food and drinks. Of course, we must take responsibility for what we choose but when sugary, salty, fatty items dominate what is offered in supermarkets, school and work canteens, sporting venues, service stations, motel dining rooms, clubs and even hospitals, they become an easy choice. The food industry uses advertising and promotions to “normalise” the consumption of highly processed foods and drinks and its lobbying power to resist regulation.

Nutrition Australia (Aloysa Hourigan) said an ideal breakfast included protein and calcium. In this busy world, liquid breakfast in a carton can seem to be a perfect choice. According to the packaging they’re nutritious as well as easy to “grab and go”. Some health experts aren’t convinced they should replace breakfast on a regular basis. They should be considered an occasional food. They have some nutritional value but mostly are too high in sugar, low in fat and kilojoules to constitute a healthy breakfast. One in seven children are not eating breakfast before going to school (Dr. Rosemary Stanton and Dr. Christina Pollard – (The conversation 2014). Foodbank’s Social Return on Investment Report shows breakfast cereal was most in demand for those struggling financially. Foodbank Australia has joined with Kellogg’s Australia to provide six million serves of breakfast cereal for children going without.

The State Government will give at least $2 million to the C.W.A to spread healthy cooking and eating to the most remote parts of the state. The C.W.A volunteers and staff will drive across Queensland in vehicles two at a time, spreading the message at local shows, cooking demonstrations and other community forums.

The typical supermarket now stocks about 30,000 items up from between 600-800 in the 60’s. Companies are in the business to make a profit. Sugar, refined starches and fat are chap additives used to dilute more nutritious e.g. many fruit drinks contain just 25% juice with added sugar and water.

Sugars, added starches, saturated fat and salt are cheap, so the more added, the more budget benefit left for persuading customers, including children to choose their product.

Marketing costs are tax deductible in Australia. Basic foods such as fruits and vegetables which have little or no packaging or value padding have only a small budget for promotion so their consumption in correspondingly low (Dr. R. Stanton and Dr. C. Pollard).

A Deakin University study provides evidence that sugary drinks and fatty foods are linked to the growing rate of obesity in Australian children, more than half Australian toddlers have excessive salt intake, putting them at risk of high blood pressure, and stroke.

Because salt is added to many of our basic foods, parents are unintentionally feeding them diets too high in salt. Taste preferences are set in early life, so acquiring preference for salty foods then, leads to preferences in adult life.

Increasing portion size make an offering more attractive to many, but then competitors do the same, all offerings become large, leading to health problems and obesity.

50% of office workers, working through lunch hours are eating, drinking ready available food rather than eating a healthy lunch in a healthier atmosphere outdoors.

Foods with questionable health claims including those promoted by prominent sports people are being addressed by the Cancer Council. On pack promotions such as celebrity endorsements and nutrient claims such as “rich in protein”, “packed with fibre”, “lunch box friendly”, and “baked not fried” can sway parents and children’s food preferences. Dr. Paul Bates from the Bupa Health Foundation said “Counter advertising could encourage parents of young children to make healthier food choices”

The Obesity Policy Coalition made up of peak health groups including the Cancer Council and Diabetes Australia, raised concerns after a Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) proposal to allow electrolyte drinks to carry health claims. Sports drinks are generally too sugary and salty for non-athletes. The Australian Institute of Sport states carbohydrate replenishment tis not need during exercise less than 45 minutes duration and only small amounts are required for sustained high intense exercise of up to 75 minutes.

Consumer watchdogs are fighting to stop grocery firms hiding details of product sizes on the back of packaging. The Australian Food and Grocery Council is advocating for the rules of front of packets, boxes and bottles to be scrapped in favour of more flexible requirements currently in force in Europe. Consumer organisations draw attention to companies quietly shrinking the size of products but not price.

Some food companies are dodging television advertising restrictions by targeting children on social media. More than 13 million Australians a month are engaging in the Facebook pages of foods such as ice cream, chocolate, pizza, burgers, fired chicken according to a study. These consumers are able to order some of the products on line, to be delivered to their door. Photographs, logos, trademarks and brand colours are used. Celebrity photos, videos, competitions, polls and quizzes, discounting vouchers are used to attract Facebook users.   Many sites ask consumers to photograph themselves using the products which all then shared on the company’s Facebook page.


McDonalds Australia will begin home delivery in the greater Brisbane area next month as a trial. Customers wanting to use the service will be able to choose from an almost full list of menu items, placing the order through the company’s website with a minimum order of $25.

Date marking provides a guide to the shelf life of a food. “Use by” indicates the last date on which the food may be safely eaten. “Best before” indicating the food maybe safe to eat but the quality may have lessened providing it has been stored according to stated storage conditions and the package is unopened / damaged.

Ancient grains such as quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah), Amaranth, Buck wheat, Freekah, Ferro and Millet are being promoted. As well as providing a variety to meals, these grains are bursting with essential nutrients for health and well-being. These grains are available at local supermarkets as well as speciality stores. For more information visit the “grains and Legumes Nutrition Council” and for information and recipes check Catherine Saxelby’s book – “Ancient Grains-Whole Food Recipes for Modern Table”.

Nutrition Adviser Report March 2014


By Val Cocksedge

Most of the burden of disease due to poor nutrition in Australia is associated with excess intake of energy-dense and relatively nutrient-poor foods high in energy, saturated fat, added or refined sugars salt, and the inadequate intake of nutrient-dense foods.  Deficiency in nutrients such as iodine, folate, iron, Vitamin D is also a concern for some people.

Work-like pressures are blamed for bad food choices.  A new survey shows the increasing habit of eating out, the convenience of fast foods, buying take-away, ready to eat meals.

Almost a third of Queensland adults were measured as obese in 2011-2012.  The Queensland Government has launched a $7.5 million ad campaign using images of fat as it appears around vital organs.  Deep-fried and sugar laden foods being sold in the state’s public hospital canteens are on the “hit list” as the Newman government rolls out its new obesity program.

Queensland Health has a $45 million package of initiatives to help children and young teenagers improve their health and to stamp out chronic disease.  With more than one in four

Queensland children now overweight and obese, the Healthy Children program aims to improve children and young people’s food choices, focusing on positive healthy lifestyle choices.  The program includes thirteen initiatives across government and partnership with many external organisations to improve the nutrition and physical activity of children.  An example includes the Trim Kids project which aims to support families to adopt healthy lifestyles and to promote healthy weight through sustained change.

Dr. Jeanette Young, Chief Health Officer has a free help hotline for the obese and overweight.

Queensland’s Chief health Officer, Doctor Jeanette Young has called on parents to ban children from drinking soft drinks and fruit juice.  A 375ml. can of soft drink contains up to 10 teaspoons of sugar.  Young children should be drinking only milk or water.

                The Good Start Program for Maori and Pacific Islander children employs seven part-time multicultural health workers to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity among the young people.

“Need for Feed” is a fun and interactive “healthy cooking and nutrition” program tailored to students in years 7-10 in some Queensland schools.  The program funded by Queensland health and managed by Diabetes Queensland, teaches students basic cooking skills and gives them confidence to prepare and eat a variety of nutritious foods at home.  This is the third year of the program and to date Diabetes Qld. Has run 44 programs across the state with plans for more.  Each program must be run outside of school hours for a total of 20 hours with 15-20 participants aiming to influence the long-term health benefits of young Queenslanders.

Educating families on improving their diet in the battle against obesity was the key plank to Jamie Oliver’s International Food Revolution Day on May 17 – aimed to highlight the importance of cooking wholesome healthy food from scratch.  Following the success of the 10 week course in Ipswich, Jamie Oliver is set to launch another of his Ministry of Food Cooking Schools in Toowoomba. Great outcomes have been seen participants knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards healthy cooking and eating.                                                                                                                                  

A survey of 500 Australian parents shows 92% of children are eating less than the recommended daily serves of 4-5 vegetables and 35% not eating the recommended 2 pieces of fruit.

The Brisbane Produce Markets “Healthy Lunchboxes” book developed with dietician and nutritionist Maree Ferguson is intended to kick start the healthy switch by offering ten simple lunch boxes that tick off the five food group.  “Healthy Lunchboxes” is available from local greengrocers in S.E. Queensland.  Visit

A glance into lunchboxes at 5 Queensland and day care centres revealed 38% of sandwiches had vegemite, jam or nut spreads, more than one third had junk food such as biscuits, potato chips, doughnuts or chocolate bars.  On average there are 11.1 gm. of sugar and 10.21 mg. of salt in the products – twice the daily recommended daily intake for children.

75% of salt comes from our processed foods – stock, canned soups, breads, tinned tomatoes, ready meals, some cereals, peanut butter, vegemite are on the list.  A 350 ml can of soft drink 40gm, 200 ml bottle of fruit juice 15gm.

In September, the Parenting, Eating and Activity for Child Health (PEACH) program was launch and to be run by the QUT.  The program is for families with an overweight or obese child aged 5-11. The government program estimated to cost $5 million, aims to address childhood obesity in Queensland.  Over 6 months, parents will be educated on how to overcome pitfalls such as contents of lunchboxes and take away meals.  The children will be in involved in physical activity.  Since 2002, a similar program has been successful in South Australia.

Eating a large breakfast and a smaller dinner may help weight loss according to recent Israeli study.

March 2014 Nutrition Report Revised