Assessing the Healthy Food Partnership's Proposed Nutrient Reformulation Targets for Foods and Beverages in Australia

Nutrients. 2020 May 8;12(5):1346. doi: 10.3390/nu12051346.

Abstract

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide. Unhealthy diets are one of four main behavioral risk factors contributing to the majority of NCDs. To promote healthy eating and reduce dietary risks, the Australian Commonwealth Government established the Healthy Food Partnership (HFP). In 2018, the HFP consulted on proposed nutrient reformulation targets for 36 food categories to improve the overall quality of the food supply. This study assessed whether the proposed targets were feasible and appropriate. The HFP used a five-step approach to inform the proposed targets. We replicated and extended this approach using a different nutrient composition database (FoodSwitch). Products in FoodSwitch were mapped to the proposed HFP targets. The proportion of products meeting each target was calculated and the FoodSwitch data were compared with HFP data to determine whether the proposed target nutrient levels were appropriate or whether a more stringent target was feasible. Products from the FoodSwitch database (10,599) were mapped against the proposed HFP categories: 8434 products across 30 categories for sodium, 2875 products across seven categories for sugar, and 612 products across five categories for saturated fat. The analyses revealed that 14 of 30 proposed HFP targets for sodium, one of seven targets for sugar, and one of five targets for saturated fat were feasible and appropriate. For the remaining 26 reformulation targets, the results indicate that these target levels could be more stringent and alternative targets are proposed. The draft HFP targets are feasible but the majority are too conservative. If Australia is to meet its commitment to a 30 per cent reduction in the average population salt intake by 2025, these targets could be implemented as interim targets to be reached within two years. However, the opportunity exists to improve the food supply and strengthen the HFP's population health impact by adopting more ambitious and incremental targets. Reformulation programs should be prioritized and closely monitored as part of a coordinated, multi-faceted national food and nutrition strategy.

Keywords: Australia; food supply; reformulation.