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

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Community Health Dietitian
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General Comments

The ADGs have a role to play in promoting a safe, secure, nutritious, affordable and sustainable food supply so that the ADGs are able to be followed by the community into the future.  For this reason I believe that it is important to include a strong environmental component in the ADGs, either as a chapter in the body of the text or, at the very least, as a strongly worded appendix.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines are designed to assist the community to make healthy food choices that reduce the risk of chronic disease and poor dietary outcomes. But without easy access to a healthy food supply, the ADGs may have little impact.  Maintaining a safe, secure, nutritious affordable and sustainable food supply is vital for the health of the population. With many of the increasing chronic diseases having a dietary component in either prevention or treatment or both, healthy eating is not only important for individual health, but also important for the economic viability  of the nation's health and aged care services, as well as maintaining workplace productivity. So it is vital for the long term economic sustainability of the country that our food supply is robust and sustainable.

Long term sustainability of our food supply can only be achieved if adequate emphasis is given to the environmental impacts and consequences of growing and producing food. The Appendix to the Australian Dietary Guidelines Through and Environmental Lens had the potential to play an important role in emphasising this link. Those who utilise the ADG's in their work such as health professionals, teachers, researchers and community support workers will then have adequate background knowledge to at least add food supply sustainability to the agenda. Without this information coming from a reputable source and based on scientific research, those working at a grassroots level implementing the ADG's within the community may struggle to have the capacity to speak to issues pertaining to food through an environmental lenses. 

As a Community Health Dietitian I am very concerned about the future sustainability of our food supply and its impact on the environment. The publication of the new Australian Dietary Guidelines are a unique opportunity to educate the community on the link between our food supply and the environment, and provide recommendations which have the potential not only to improve the health of the population but also improve the health of the planet. 

Fortunately the Australia Dietary Guidelines recommendations are very similar to recommendations for achieving a sustainable food supply, and also make economic sense for families who are struggling financially. Many of my clients who are trying to improve their diet are interested in living sustainably, but may not make healthy and sustainable food choices as often as would be recommended for a variety of reasons, including affordability. With many families in Australia having difficulty affording healthy food, guidelines that made sense economically as well are a bonus. Linking the health of the community, the environment and the household bank balance has the potential to impact more widely within the community than dietary guidelines alone. 'Selling' the ADGs as having the added benefit of also being good for the environment and the wallet may be an important emphasis for dissemination and promotion of the ADGs. 

I urge you to include a discussion about the environmental aspects of a sustainable food supply in the Australian Dietary Guidelines, either as an Appendix, as it is currently included, or as a chapter in the main text. 


Page reviewed: 4 February, 2013