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Monday, 22 April 1985
Page: 1281

Senator MISSEN —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the Government concerned about allegations in relation to the recently launched advertising campaign by CSR Ltd aimed at increasing the consumption of sugar, as reported in the Melbourne Herald article dated 15 April this year? In relation to that campaign, I ask: Firstly, what is the attitude of the Government to recent allegations by Rosemary Stanton, consultant nutritionist to Weight Watchers Australia Pty Ltd and the New South Wales Government-a curious combination-that the consumption rate of 45 kilograms per year was far too high and that food advertised on children's television programs was 93 per cent for fat, sugar and salt, and only 1 per cent for fruit and vegetables? Secondly, does the Government agree with the recent statement by dietitian Matthew Steele that Australians eat, on average, almost a kilogram of sugar a week, providing no fibres, vitamins or minerals? Thirdly, is the Government concerned about the high rate of consumption of junk food, which includes a high sugar content, in Australian diets? What action has the Government taken or does it intend to take to inform Australians about the dangers of high sugar consumption?

Senator GRIMES —The Department of Health, the Minister for Health and the Government are concerned about sugar consumption levels in the Australian community and therefore must be concerned about the present campaign to increase the consumption of sugar. The Government and the Minister certainly agree with nutritionists such as Rosemary Stanton that Australians on average eat too much sugar-some of us look as though we do-and that advertisements promote too much food containing large amounts of fat, sugar and salt rather than the fruit and vegetables to which Senator Missen referred. The Department also agrees with Matthew Steele's statements concerning the extraordinary amount of sugar Australians eat-something like one kilogram a week. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has recently indicated that it seems that this level of sugar consumption is being maintained.

It is for this reason, and because of the concern of the Government and the Department of Health that Australians eat more food of a high nutritional value, more food with fibres and other supplementary items, that a set of dietary guidelines for Australians has been developed. These guidelines include one which talks about how to avoid eating too much sugar. These guidelines and other nutritional material about problems of high sugar consumption have been widely distributed throughout Australia and will be distributed in the future.

The Government cannot do much about the sort of campaign that is being conducted at the moment encouraging people to eat more sugar, but it is certainly the Government's role-the Government believes that it should take up that role-to educate the community generally on a more nutritious diet and on the dangers of eating excess sugar, particularly as a substitute for other foods. The Government will continue to produce documents of this type. It is my understanding that Dr Blewett and his Better Health Commission will be ensuring that this important aspect of the health of Australians will continue to be developed and widely publicised.