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Appendix to the Australian Dietary Guidelines: Dietary Guidelines through an environmental lens submission

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I believe that advice about how to eat sustainably to protect food security for current and future generations MUST be the priority message of dietary guidelines. It should be the first dietary guideline and should also be integrated with subsequent guidelines, rather than being relegated to an appendix. This was recommended in the consultation to the draft guidelines by many stakeholder groups.

Placing environmental considerations in an appendix marginalizes the environmental issue. However, ensuring a secure and sustainable supply of food for current and future generations is fundamentally important to the ability of Australians to consume a nutritious diet

There is growing interest among Australians in eating sustainably. In a 2011 consumer survey, over 45% of people said that it was important or very important to know about the environmental impact of food production systems, and a further 35% said that it was somewhat or quite important. However, the survey also showed that Australians lack knowledge about the environmental impact of food systems, with almost 70% of people saying that they were confused about the issue [Worsley & Byrne 2011].

The nutrition, public health and medical professionals in Australia and overseas have called for the inclusion of environmental sustainability considerations into dietary guidelines [Holdsworth 2011, PHA 2011]. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has also urged governments to develop policies and guidelines that promote sustainable diets [Burlingame & Dernini 2012], and a UK Parliamentary Committee has recently conducted an inquiry into sustainable food [HCEAC 2012]. Australia must not fall behind by missing this opportunity to embed environmental considerations into the Australian Dietary Guidelines. To do so will mean delaying action for another 10-15 years. The impacts of global warming and client change need to be addressed now and cannot wait.

As a health professional to which the general public and media look for advice on health and nutrition I am also expected to address environmental considerations.  I want my advice to be supported by resources that ensure best practice and consistent messaging. I also want to be able to refer the public to the AGTHE for background and practical advice not only on healthy eating but healthy eating with less environmental impact. Without the addition of a guideline to address the environmental message and the incorporation of this message into subsequent guidelines there is nothing of substance to support healthy lower impact eating in the ADG as they currently exist.

Worsley, T. and S. Byrne, Food Knowledge Survey 2011: Preliminary Report 2011, Deakin University Melbourne.

Holdsworth, M., Sustainability should be integral to nutrition and dietetics. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 2010. 23: p. 467-468.

Public Health Association of Australia, A Future for Food 2: Healthy, sustainable, Fair. 2011, Public Health Association of Australia: Canberra.

Burlingame, B. and S. Dernini, Sustainable diets and biodiversity: Directions and solutions for policy, research and action 2012, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO).

House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, Sustainable Food 2012, Eleventh report of session 2010-12: London.

Page reviewed: 4 February, 2013