Australia's Food Environment Dashboard

A comprehensive government response is needed to improve population diets and create healthier food environments. There is expert consensus internationally on the range of policy actions that are required, including in the areas of health, education, finance, sport and recreation, and several other sectors. Governments at all levels, including the commonwealth, state/territory and local governments, need to develop and implement multiple strategies as part of a co-ordinated policy approach to addressing unhealthy diets and preventing obesity.

Key Findings

Federal/National government

A 2022 assessment of Australian federal government policies for creating healthy food environments found that, despite some areas of good progress, Australia is lagging behind global benchmarks of good practice.

Areas where Australia was meeting international best practice benchmarks included:

  • Aspects of food labelling policies, including regulation of ingredient lists, nutrition information panels and health claims
  • No GST on fresh fruit and vegetables
  • The development of national strategies including The National Preventive Health Strategy (2021-2030) and the National Obesity Strategy (2022-2032)
  • Investment into the review of the Australian Dietary Guidelines, including strong governance processes to minimise and manage conflicts of interest


There were a number areas where Australia was identified as lagging substantially behind other countries in their efforts to address unhealthy diets and obesity including:

  • Restricting promotion of unhealthy foods online, in retail outlets and related to sport, as well as restricting elements that appeal to children on unhealthy food packaging
  • Taxes or levies on unhealthy foods
  • Provision of healthy food in public sector workplaces and support for healthy food provision in private companies
  • Having a dedicated taskforce for addressing nutrition and obesity, and an independent health promotion agency

Fed govt scorecard 2022 Policy Actions

Federal govt scorecard infrastructure support 2022

Source: Food Policy Index Australia Report 2022/23


State and Territory governments

There is considerable potential for leading policy initiatives, programs and supporting infrastructure to be applied more broadly across jurisdictions. The 2022/23 Food Policy Index assessment indicated that states and territories vary in their level of implementation of internationally recommended policies.

Policies in some states / territories were recognised as meeting global best practice benchmarks, including:

  • Monitoring and reporting of the implementation of healthy food policies in schools and health services (NSW, WA)
  • Removal of junk food ads from public buses (ACT)
  • Comprehensive policy suite, implementation support tools and training systems to help organisations in a range of settings to provide healthy foods (VIC)
  • Ongoing investment in high quality public education campaigns promoting healthy eating (WA)
  • Independent health promotion agencies, with priorities for nutrition and healthy eating (QLD, SA, VIC and WA)


Priority areas identified to strengthen state/territory government policy action to address unhealthy diets and obesity included:

  • Apply a whole-of-government approach to improving population diets, with long-term funding and resources committed to the implementation of strategies and action plans
  • Restrict all advertising for unhealthy food and beverages (and related brands) in settings controlled or managed by government, including public transport infrastructure, public spaces, and within 500m of schools
  • Regularly monitor and support the implementation of healthy and environmentally sustainable food procurement and provision policies in key settings, including schools, health facilities, early childhood and care (ECEC) settings, and sport and recreation facilities
  • Support ongoing monitoring and review of the healthiness of food environments
  • Increase government investment in the capacity of the public health nutrition workforce

All States and Territories have policies for healthy school food provision, but they differ in the way the policies are applied and the extent to which implementation is monitored and support.

State and territory govt scorecard 2022

Source: Food Policy Index Australia Report 2022/23


Local governments

While there is limited monitoring of Australian local government’s policy action to create healthy food environments, research to date suggests the extent to which they are taking action varies:

  • In New South Wales, a 2020 study noted that local governments were commonly taking action on reducing food waste, providing food/meal services for disadvantaged groups, and providing information/education on food and nutrition. The same study identified that some councils also supported urban/local food production and markets selling fresh, healthy food.
  • In Victoria, a 2018 survey demonstrated that obesity prevention and promotion of healthy food and drinks were a moderate to high priority for councils. 55% of councils had increased the priority given to healthy food promotion over the previous year.

Overall, few local governments have taken action to restrict of the density of unhealthy food outlets, encourage the opening of healthy food outlets, or reduce unhealthy food marketing.


To support benchmarking of local government policy action, the Local Food Systems Policy Index (Local Food-EPI+) tool has been developed in conjunction with local government practitioners, policy makers and academic experts. The tool allow local councils to self-assess their performance against recommended policy actions to improve the healthiness, equity and environmental sustainability of food systems.

  • The tool aims to build capacity of local governments to identify and prioritise food policy actions, and can help local governments meet healthy eating and sustainability priorities in Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plans
  • As at the end of 2023, the Local Food-EPI+ tool has been successfully implemented in a number of local governments in Victoria, Australia. The final report for the City of Greater Bendigo (November 2022) is available here. Reports for other councils will be made available in 2024.
  • If you would like to find out more, or to express interest in using the Local Food-EPI+ tool, please email Gary Sacks at

Key Recommendations

Federal/National government

There is broad consensus amongst the public health community regarding the priority actions needed from the Federal Government to address unhealthy diets in Australia.

The top five priority policy actions identified in the 2022/23 Food Policy Index assessment included:

  • Restrict the exposure of children and young people (under 18 years) to the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages through comprehensive and consistent national legislation
  • Implement a health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages and other unhealthy foods
  • Make the Health Star Rating (HSR) labelling scheme mandatory
  • Establish strong mandatory national targets for reductions in sodium, saturated fat and added sugar in key food categories
  • Implement freight subsidies for rural and remote communities and ensuring that healthy food remains GST-free in retail settings
  • Develop a detailed implementation plan (including publicly available monitoring and evaluation) for the National Preventive Health Strategy and National Obesity Strategy, with a dedicated national taskforce and sustained funding


To facilitate the implementation of these policy actions, the following infrastructure supports were recommended:

  • Develop a detailed implementation plan (including publicly available monitoring and evaluation) for the National Preventive Health Strategy and National Obesity Strategy, with a dedicated national taskforce and sustained funding
  • Develop and implement a National Food and Nutrition Strategy that focuses on food security and aims to ensure an accessible, affordable, healthy and environmentally sustainable food supply across all settings
  • Commit sustained funding and ongoing support for a comprehensive diet and nutrition survey, with robust survey methodology, conducted every 3-5 years
  • Invest in nationally-coordinated ongoing monitoring of food environments, including the exposure of children to marketing of unhealthy foods (and related brands), the price and affordability of healthy and unhealthy foods, and the nutritional quality of food available in schools, early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings, and public sector settings
  • Increase government investment in the capacity of the public health nutrition workforce, including consideration of diversity and a focus on Indigenous peoples


State and Territory governments

Recommendations vary for each state and territory. For key recommendations for each jurisdiction from the Food Policy Index initiative, refer to the Policies for tackling obesity and creating healthier food environments: Scorecard and priority recommendations for Australian governments 2022/23 report.


Local governments

Local governments are encouraged to self-assess their food policy actions using the Local Food Systems Policy Index (Local Food-EPI+) tool and use the results to help identify and prioritise policy actions to improve the healthiness, equity and environmental sustainability of food systems, specific to their local context. Please contact Gary Sacks at to find out more.