In this opinion piece, Good Mood Dudes founder Dr. Nicholas Chartres provides his view on this article: About those five serves of veg a day you’re not eating

 

If you’re eating your 5 & 2 each day you’re in the minority in Australia.

But before you beat yourself up, Dr Nicholas Chartres, who conducted the first in-depth study on how industry sponsorship influences nutrition research, and is an expert in identifying and analyzing industry influence in the research process, encourages us to consider the role of government and ‘Big Food’ in all of this.

Here are his 3 takeaways from this story:

– ~6% of Australian adults and ~9% of children eat the recommended two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables per day. This is actually up from 5.1% in 2014/15 and 4.2% in 2011-12.
– Affordability of buying vegetables is the single greatest barrier to consuming them (despite the unequivocal evidence that the more of them we eat, the lower our risk of dying a premature death from things like heart disease).
– “We need to move away from blaming the individual”.

So, the simple solution??

The government could subsidize farmers/primary producers to reduce the price of fruits and vegetable to consumers, increase their availability and in theory increase consumption (although removing the highly processed foods from our shopping aisles would also need to be addressed, I think to see meaningful change in consumption patterns of fruits and vegetables).

This would then lead to reductions in non-communicable disease risk and early dying, therefore significantly reducing our health care spending without any additional government spending. How?

The government could offset these subsidies by taxing ‘Big Food’ – the companies that reap millions of dollars from making our children sick with highly processed food commodities, that offer no nutritional value and are ubiquitous in our food systems and environment (think sugar-sweetened beverages – which have been taxed successfully in several countries of the world, leading to reduced consumption patterns).

Sounds simple, right?? Why isn’t it happening here?

It is due to the structural influence (economic and political) ‘Big Food’ has on our decision-makers.

However, there is hope. The Australian government led international efforts for cigarette plain packaging and a tobacco tax, which were successful in reducing smoking prevalence. And since obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia, I think it’s time for government action.

 

Dr Nicholas Chartres is the Director of Science & Policy at the University of California, San Francisco working with the Program of Reproductive Health and the Environment. His work focuses on US federal chemical policy and regulation.

Nick received his PhD from The University of Sydney, where his thesis examined ways to reduce bias in public health guidelines, including the primary studies that are used in our national Dietary Guidelines. Nick also has a Masters in Nutrition.