A large number of respondents to a recent survey say governments should take a more active role in controlling food labels to improve public health, education and benefit the environment.

Curtin University researchers used data from over 2,100 respondents to health surveys over three years to highlight the increasing recognition that regulation should be used to address the public health problems of obesity and poor diet, which can tax health systems in many ways.

Dr Christina Pollard, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow in the School of Public Health says people are realising that plenty of the things we eat do not help at all, and governments should be called on to point it out.

“Our research demonstrated that 94 per cent of people think that the Australian and New Zealand governments should control health ratings on food and 83 per cent think that it should regulate the advertising of junk food,” Dr Pollard said.

“Community perception is that government control or regulation of food labelling, food advertising and the supply of environmentally-friendly food, is important.

“Curbing excess weight gain and related disease burden is a public health priority and our research clearly demonstrates that public opinion has evolved ahead of government policy. As with alcohol and tobacco regulations, these changes need to become a priority.

“Australian federal and state governments are considering food regulatory interventions to assist the public to improve their dietary intake. These findings should provide reassurance to government officials considering these regulatory measures,” Dr Pollard said.

The research was conducted in collaboration with the Public Health Association of Australia, with results now published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.