The powerful food industry has been mimicking tactics used by tobacco companies to stifle Australian regulations and stall reforms to help people be healthier, an inquiry has heard.
Consumer advocate group Choice’s chief executive Alan Kirkland has told a senate inquiry into obesity in Sydney there is evidence of food companies discrediting research they don’t agree with and funding their own.
They have also been developing voluntary, self-regulated schemes that have helped them avoid real regulations, he said.
“This set of tactics leads to regulation being delayed, initiatives being watered down and an overwhelming lack of progress in making it easier for consumers who want to make healthy choices to do so,” Mr Kirkland told the inquiry on Monday.
Mr Kirkland said guidelines that now protect tobacco regulations from being influenced by commercial interests should also apply to food.
“It would be outrageous to invite tobacco companies to the table to help draft tobacco control laws. So why would we give food and beverage lobbyists a similar level of influence in debates about food and health policy?” he said.
Australians are also being influenced directly by food companies through manipulative advertising and misleading labelling, Mr Kirkland said.
Along with reducing the food industry’s influence on policy, he said Choice believes a national strategy is needed to deal with Australia’s obesity epidemic.