Australia's Food Environment Dashboard

In Australia, consumption of unhealthy, processed foods is a major contributor to excess population intake of energy, sodium, added sugar and saturated fat, which in turn contributes to excess weight, ill health and premature death. A range of studies have investigated the healthiness of food and drinks available in Australian supermarkets and fast food outlets.

Indicator Result Previous Assessment* What was measured? Source

Packaged food

 

Proportion of packaged food and drinks classified as unhealthy **

49%

Packaged food and drinks available in Australian supermarkets (2018-19)†

State of the Food Supply Australia (2020)

Proportion of packaged food and drinks with a Health Star Rating < 3.5 stars ***

53%

Packaged food and drinks available in Australian supermarkets (2018-19)†

State of the Food Supply Australia (2020)

Proportion of packaged food and drinks that are ultra-processedˆ

69%

Packaged food and beverages available in Australian supermarkets (2018-19)†

State of the Food Supply Australia (2020)

Fast food

 

Proportion of foods available in major fast food chains with a Health Star Rating < 3.5 stars ***

58%

Foods available in Australian fast food outlets (2019)

State of the Fast Food Supply Australia (2020)

Healthy Food Partnership targetsˆˆ

 

Proportion of packaged foods (in each category) that meets the Healthy Food Partnership target for sodium:

 

– Soups

– Cakes, muffins, slices

62%
65%

Packaged food and beverages available in Australian supermarkets (2018-19)†

State of the Food Supply Australia (2020)

– Processed deli meats
– Crumbed and battered meat and poultry
– Leavened Bread (e.g. loaf, rolls, bagels)
– Potato snacks
– Pizza

19%
45%
42%
40%
49%

Proportion of packaged foods (in each category) that meets the Healthy Food Partnership reformulation target for saturated fat:

 

– Sausages

– Pizza
– Processed meat (frankfurts and saveloys)

– Savoury pastries (wet)

53%

56%
69%

73%

Packaged food and beverages available in Australian supermarkets (2018-19)†

State of the Food Supply Australia (2020)

– Savoury pastries (dry)

35%

Proportion of packaged foods that meets the Healthy Food Partnership target for sugar

Data due late 2021

 

* Green = ‘Promotes health’; Amber = ‘Needs further improvement to promote health’; Red = ‘Unhealthy’. Refer to Indicator Assessment Criteria at the bottom of the page.

** The term ‘unhealthy foods’ refers to discretionary foods. The Australian Dietary Guidelines describes discretionary foods as foods and drinks not necessary to provide the nutrients the body needs, but that may add variety. Many discretionary foods are energy dense and high in saturated fats, added sugars and/or sodium. The recommendations are that discretionary foods can be consumed sometimes in small amounts by those who are physically active, but are not a necessary part of the diet.

*** The Health Star Rating (HSR) is a front-of-pack labelling system that rates the overall nutritional quality of packaged food and beverages, assigning a rating from ½ a star to 5 stars. The more stars, the healthier the choice between similar products. The HSR system is primarily designed for application to packaged foods.

ˆ Ultra-processed foods are formulations of ingredients, mostly of exclusive industrial use, typically created by series of industrial techniques and processes. There is a considerable and growing body of evidence indicating the links between ultra-processed foods and negative health outcomes.

ˆˆ The Australian Government’s Healthy Food Partnership is an initiative that brings together the Australian government, public health experts and the food industry to cooperatively tackle obesity and encourage healthy eating. The Healthy Food Partnership has set reformulation targets for the maximum sodium, sugar or saturated fat content for 36 priority food and drink categories. Currently reformulation targets apply to 80 percent of each product category by sales volume, with food manufacturers expected to show effort towards reformulating the remaining 20 percent of products.

† State of the Food Supply 2020 report is based on data from manufacturers with retail sales value share of ≥1% and includes 15 major food categories. Alcoholic beverages as well as food categories that do not contribute significantly to nutrient intake and where manufacturers are not required to display a Nutritional Information Panel were excluded. 


Key Findings

  • About half of the food and drinks in Australia’s packaged food supply is unhealthy.
  • No packaged food category currently meets nutrition targets set by the government-led Healthy Food Partnership˜.
  • Most of the products made by major fast food chains are unhealthy and are high in sodium, sugar and/or saturated fat.
  • Products within the same food category (eg. canned vegetables, hamburgers) often vary considerably in terms of their Health Star Rating and the amount of sugar, sodium and/or saturated fat they contain. This demonstrates there is capacity for manufacturers to make healthier versions of similar products.

˜ Current reformulation targets apply to 80 percent of each product category by sales volume, with food manufacturers expected to show effort towards reformulating the remaining 20 percent of products.


Key Recommendations

Current research highlights substantial opportunities for food and drink companies to reorient their product portfolios to improve population nutrition.

  • Further reformulation work to reduce sodium, added sugar and saturated fat is required by manufacturers to meet the nutrition targets set by the government-led Healthy Food Partnership.
  • In addition to reformulation, food and drink companies can change the ‘mix’ of products in their portfolio by introducing new products with a healthier nutritional profile.
  • Supermarkets can use their significant power to improve the nutritional quality of food available to Australians by improving the nutrient composition of their own-brand products, and by encouraging other manufacturers to improve the healthiness of branded product ranges made available on their shelves.
  • Fast food chains should set specific, measurable targets for the reduction of added sugar, saturated fat, sodium and kilojoule content across menu items. They should also commit to making healthier sides and drinks the default option as part of combination deals, particularly as part of children’s meals.

For more information

Journal Articles

Reports

Indicator Assessment Criteria
Metric

Proportion of packaged food and drinks classified as unhealthy (discretionary)

 ≤ 20%

21 – 40%

> 40%

Proportion of packaged food and drinks with a Health Star Rating <3.5 stars

 ≤ 20%

21 – 40%

> 40%

Proportion of packaged food and drinks that are ultra-processed

 ≤ 20%

21 – 40%

> 40%

Proportion of packaged foods (in each category) that meets the Healthy Food Partnership reformulation target

≥ 80%

40 – 79%

< 40%