Food Amendment (Kilojoule Labelling Scheme and Other Matters) Bill 2016

12 October 2016

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — We all like to eat, and more than ever we have a vast array of food at our disposal which we are very tempted to consume. But I must say we are all eating far too much, so it is a pleasure to speak on the Food Amendment (Kilojoule Labelling Scheme and Other Matters) Bill 2016 today because not only does this deliver on the Andrews Labor government’s commitment to introduce kilojoule labelling laws but it actually is a very good bill in that it is a wake-up call to every Victorian about just how much is enough to eat.

The purpose of this bill is to provide a labelling scheme so that when people enter the 3000 Victorian food chain businesses and over 500 supermarkets that will be required to display this vital kilojoule information, they can see exactly what is in their food and how much it is likely to affect their weight and, as a result, their health. It will enable people to have the correct information — not guesswork, not relying on some other source, something they may have googled on the internet from some consumer organisation or some sort of fast-food outlet that may be trying to hoodwink them about what is in their food — for making a decision about what they eat.

As others speakers have outlined, we know that two-thirds of Victorians are overweight or obese, and unfortunately these rates are rapidly rising. To put it simply, as I said at the outset, most of us are getting far too fat. It is not a nice thing to say, but it is true. I note that Cancer Council Victoria has welcomed our commitment to introducing kilojoule labelling because they quite correctly identified that:

Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing certain types of cancer, including some of the most common cancers such as bowel and … breast cancer …

With nearly two-thirds of the Victorian population either overweight or obese, we need to make it easier for people to make healthier choices — and here’s one way that’s been proven to work.

We are following in the footsteps of other states, and I must admit the previous government had that opportunity but failed to do so. New South Wales has already taken significant steps, but the benefit of this is that New South Wales has provided us with some vital information about just how effective this sort of kilojoule labelling scheme can be — but I digress. I know that the CSIRO has just released a report that found our diets are worsening, with junk food being one of the main culprits. So it is very important that this kilojoule labelling should be at some of our major fast-food outlets. The CSIRO report found that more than one-third of people admitted to eating more than the maximum of two serves per day, with alcohol, cakes, biscuits, sweet drinks and confectionery being the main temptations. To put it simply, we are eating far too much junk food and too many kilojoules. Sadly this is happening everywhere, but as the evidence and some of the research that I have been able to see has shown, this is happening in the outer suburbs to a greater degree because of the number of fast-food outlets we have in the outer suburbs.

I would be the first to say that, as a busy mum, I like to pick my kids up from after-school care some nights, go through that McDonald’s driveway, get the Big Mac and the fries and think, ‘Yes, that’s a job done’. But it is not something that we should be encouraging to happen on a regular basis. The City of Casey’s food security policy highlights that that municipality has a higher proportion of overweight and obese men than the state average. Between 2001 and 2013 the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the City of Casey also increased by a staggering 146 per cent, with an average of 12.5 new cases diagnosed each week.

The policy also notes that research conducted by Deakin University found that there were a disproportionate number of fast-food outlets in the outer suburbs. I am not saying that I am being scientific about this, but I am saying that if you look outside your door and you see a lot of fast-food outlets and you are in a hurry and you may even be in financial straits, it is very easy to go down to McDonald’s or Hungry Jack’s or KFC or Red Rooster. In Berwick there are five, in Narre Warren, seven, and in Cranbourne, five. Just down the road there are a further six in Dandenong, so we are surrounded by these fast-food outlets and they are contributing to a diabetes epidemic, which has a lot to do with being overweight and in fact with consuming far too much fattening food.

When you go and have a look at what 8700 kilojoules looks like, it can look pretty healthy. You can eat some really nice stuff — you can have Weet-Bix with bananas for your breakfast, you can have a choc chip muffin for morning tea with a cappuccino, you can have a tomato and cheese sandwich for lunch, you can have a muesli bar and an apple for afternoon tea and you can have spaghetti bolognese for dinner, a glass of red wine and two Tim Tams, and you are still only getting to 8700 kilojoules. But if you go to a fast-food outlet, you are probably in a bit of a hurry so you skip breakfast, which is not a good start to the day and is not a good thing to do. You can get a large white chocolate mocha and toasted banana bread with butter at Gloria Jean’s, you can get a cheeseburger and a Coca-Cola at McDonald’s and you can get a super supreme pizza with a thin crust and a Mars bar, and that is it. I have got to tell you that is without French fries. In fact if you include a small French fries, you get up to 10 000 kilojoules a day.

So I am saying the choice is pretty clear. You can choose a healthy diet or you can go to a fast-food outlet and get a small number of items which currently are not marked for what is in them. We know, for example, that a McDonald’s cheeseburger has 1190 kilojoules in it, so you would have used one-eighth of your daily requirement on that. To have that labelling there so that people can make important decisions — you see it elsewhere in Australia, you see it overseas — is a very good step in the right direction.

I understand that in New South Wales, where this scheme has been operating, they have found that the average number of kilojoules consumed per meal has decreased by 15 per cent. That is a great result and something we look forward to having happen here in Victoria. In fact I hope we have a better result.

This is a very important bill. It is estimated that the obesity epidemic is costing Victorians $14.4 billion a year. That is an amount that really cannot continue, because we as individuals really have to take more responsibility for our own health. Having that information available when we enter a food outlet will enable us to make those more informed decisions. I would like to say that I am very pleased to be part of a government that has finally brought this legislation to the house. Finally Victorians will be able to access information.

I would also like to say that preventive health is a very important project of this government. We want people to stay out of hospital. We want them to stay out of the doctor’s surgery if that is possible as well. Taking individual responsibility for what you eat is a very important step forward in making sure that you and your children live as long as your grandparents have lived. We are facing a situation where many of our friends and certainly our children and their children will not live as long as my Aunty Peg, who got to 100. Whilst we are out there championing the fact that people are living longer, if we are going to eat too much, we are going to eat ourselves into an early grave.

I thank the minister for bringing this bill to the house. It is a terrific piece of legislation and not before time. I wish it a very speedy passage.