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Senator wants fast food distributors to place warnings on their products similar to those on tobacco products.

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Friday 21 June 2002


Senator wants fast food distributors to place warnings on their products similar to those on tobacco products.



LINDA MOTTRAM: The health warnings to bacco companies are forced to put on their products are well known. Now doctors and politicians have fast food producers in their sights. 


With Australia's spiralling rates of obesity and heart disease, they say that fast foods should carry warnings about the risks of over-indulgence. 


Michele Fonseca reports. 


CUSTOMER: Can I please have a regular bacon deluxe with no tomato… 


MICHELE FONSECA: Fast food is big business, and at this outlet in central Melbourne, the burgers and fries are moving quickly. The fries are glistening with oil and the fat from the burgers is seeping through their wrappings. But that doesn’t bother this teenager named Jason, or his friend, also named Jason. 


JASON: I love it. I love grease pit burgers. They're really tasteful. 


JASON: I enjoy actually eating my chips and burgers and stuff like that. 


MICHELE FONSECA: While they're not too fussed about what they're swallowing, Liberal Senator Guy Barnett is. He's pushed for a plan to make fast food companies comply with a code which would force them to print health warnings on their products. 


GUY BARNETT: The main reason is this: our obesity and overweight problems in Australia are now at 55 per cent. So that's 55 per cent of all Australians are either overweight or obese.  


MICHELE FONSECA: Earlier this year, McDonalds in France launched a campaign urging customers not to eat too much of it's food.  


Senator Barnett says fast food companies here should follow that lead. He claims that if they resist the concept of health warnings, they may be confronted with the same sort of litigation tobacco companies now face.  


GUY BARNETT: It's very much a scenario. These are the sorts of things that could happen if we don't have pre-emptive action now. The best way to go to avoid, firstly, the lawsuits, which are likely and secondly, the poor health outcomes, is to take on board the pre-emptive action. 


MICHELE FONSECA: His proposal has the backing of Australian Divisions of General Practice, an industry group which represents most of the nations GPs.  


Chairwoman, Dr Julie Thompson, says fast food companies need to operate more responsibly, particularly where children are concerned. 


DR JULIE THOMPSON: Advertising is used and is successful because we know that children then nag their parents for things. We know peer group pressure is very significant in young people and a lot of gimmicks and promotions are used.  


So, I don't think we can expect parents to take all the responsibility.