Queensland schools win world praise on anti-sugar strategies

One of the world’s leading international agencies on cancer has showcased Queensland’s success in reducing the availability of sugar in schools, in a new global policy brief launched this week at the World Health Assembly in Geneva.

The World Cancer Research Fund International’s policy brief, Curbing Global Sugar Consumption, is the first report of its kind to analyse the effectiveness of sugar policies around the world.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said the State’s ‘Smart Choices’ strategy was recognised for reducing the availability of unhealthy foods in schools.

“We are incredibly proud to see a Queensland initiative showcased on a global stage – Smart Choices has been successful in improving the availability of healthy foods and drinks for our kids,” Ms Clift said.

“Curbing Global Sugar Consumption is about examining the four As that influence sugar consumption: availability, affordability, acceptability and awareness.

“Queensland’s Smart Choices strategy has been showcased alongside initiatives from France, USA, Mexico, Hungary, the Netherlands and Norway in an effort to help other countries drive down sugar consumption.

“By eliminating the availability of foods and drinks high in saturated fat, added sugar and salt in schools, we’re enabling children and parents in Queensland to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

“If the foods aren’t available – children can’t purchase them.”

Launched in 2005 and mandatory in all state schools since 2007, Smart Choices are school nutrition standards that separate foods and drinks into three categories ‘green, amber and red,’ based on their energy, saturated fat, sugar, sodium and fibre content.

“Smart Choices ensures that ‘red’ foods and drinks, which are high in saturated fat, added sugar or salt, are eliminated across the entire school environment, including tuck shops, vending machines, school events, sponsorship and advertising,” Ms Clift said.

“Surveys done six months after implementation found that Smart Choices nutrition standards had been implemented in nearly all tuck shops, whereby most schools had eliminated ‘red’ foods and increased the range of ‘green’ foods on offer.

“Impressively, many schools experienced an increase in tuck shop income.”

Excess consumption of sugar is a global problem – sugar intake contributes to weight gain, leads to overweight and obesity and increased cancer risk.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends sugar intake be limited to less than 10 per cent of total energy intake to reduce risks of overweight and obesity.

According to the WHO, a further reduction to below five per cent, or about 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.

“Curbing Global Sugar Consumption provides examples of strategies that reduce the affordability of soft drinks and increase the acceptability of fruits, vegetables and water instead of sugary drinks and snacks,” Ms Clift said.

“The sugar challenge is a global challenge – we can all learn from the policies and procedures implements by others to see worldwide change.

“Globally, rates of overweight and obesity have reached epidemic proportions – we need to work together to reverse this.”

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available at www.cancerqld.org.au or 13 11 20.

For more information or interviews, please contact:

Katie Clift, Executive Manager, Media and Spokesperson, Cancer Council Queensland

Ph: (07) 3634 5372 or 0409 001 171

*World Cancer Research Fund International: Curbing global sugar consumption, Effective food policy actions to help promote healthy diets & tackle obesity, 2015.