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

This submission reflects the views of
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Advanced Community Nutritionist
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General Comments

General feedback:

  • Although I congratulate the NHMRC for responding to feedback and developing this Appendix, I am disappointed that this information was not included in the body of the document because protecting the environment is the key to a sustainable food supply.

Companion Resources

Communication of environmental messages relating to food choices to the public is important. I would recommend that the information included in the ADG (in the text or as an appendix) is used in the development of the companion resources for the general public. My preference would be to include this within the mainstream documents; however, a separate resource on eating for environmental sustainability would also be useful. 

 Other feedback:

G1 Background:

  • Good summary of background
  • The figure is useful in summarising the impacts within the food system. The figure could be extended (or another figure added) to include suggested policy changes that would positively influence environmental outcomes relating to the food system.
  • The figure could include reference to seafood and aquaculture

 G2 The nature and challenges of the evidence base:

  • Explains the need for an intersectoral approach to evidence development
  • Overall, it appears to make all the evidence look weak and confusing. Though this is true for some areas (e.g. lack of evidence of LCAs for many food items and the relevance of LCAs generated overseas to the Australian context), the evidence for many environmental recommendations is strong and self evident e.g. encouraging the consumption of tap water over water in bottles, the promotion of breastfeeding, not purchasing more than you need, recycling, composting.

 G3 The Guidelines through an environmental lens:

  • The information is useful
  • Under the first section of Guideline 2 under fruit and vegetables, I would include something on supporting local and Australian farmers by purchasing their products in order to preserve valuable agricultural land AND it would be good to encourage home gardening
  • Under Guideline 2 under the grain section, is there evidence that ‘varying the types of grain foods you eat may reduce their overall environmental impact’?
  • Under Guideline 2 under the protein section, it would be better to order the food items in terms of their environmental impacts (e.g. plant based protein sources, eggs, poultry and pork)
  • Under Guideline 2 in the dairy section, is there evidence that ‘consuming a mixture of milk, cheese and yoghurts, rather than rely on any one food, will help minimise the environmental burden associated with consumption of foods from this group’?
  • Under Guideline 3 a. last line… add ‘and packaging’ after ‘with their production’
  • Under Guideline 3 c. (sugar-sweetened drinks) I would add that the production of plastic bottles and other packaging requires energy and contributes to landfill unless recycled
  • Under Guideline 3 d. (alcohol) I would add that alcohol production uses large amounts of water and other environmental resources but provides no nutritional benefit
  • Under Guideline 4. I’m very pleased that breastfeeding is included but it is not accurate that it “does not put any demands on environmental resources” just much less than artificial formula feeding.  The additional energy/food requirements for breastfeeding do contribute to greenhouse gasses as well as any other consumables used e.g. breast pads, pumps, bottles

 G4 Practical Tips

 I would add ‘composting, worm farming and keeping chickens’ to tip 5 at the end of the paragraph.

 This section is useful but I would recommend the following additions:

6. Consider the environment when preparing foods. This includes conserving water and using and maintaining energy efficient kitchen appliances.

7. Choose organically produced food and drink items where possible.

 (new) G5 – Food policy (Section doesn’t currently exist)

Recommendations to include food policy interventions that would support the environment at local, state and federal government levels. Examples could include:

  • local council to provide compost bins
  • regulations making it easy to keep chickens
  • local planning to preserve peri-urban farming land
  • legislation to stop the use and importation of non-recyclable plastics
  • policies around the trade and importation of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • promotion or subsidising of 4-star rated kitchen white goods and water efficient taps
  • transparent and effective labelling for organic and free range foods.

 (new) G6. Research and infrastructure required (Section doesn’t currently exist)

Examples include:

  • mapping of the geographical and geological profile ofAustraliato identify the foods that could be grown in each area with minimal use of additional resources
  • multidisciplinary research that acknowledges the range of experts and fields required to address food and environment issues e.g. agricultural scientists, economists, environmental scientists, dietitian-nutritionists, farmers
  • development of critical framework for monitoring/surveillance  
  • develop of key committees relating to food and the environment.

 (new) G7. Additional Evidence:

Please view the literature review at http://www.ecofriendlyfood.org.au/media/pdf/Food%20Guidelines.pdf as the basis of these recommendations. Although this document is relatively old, the evidence could fairly easily be updated. 

Page reviewed: 4 February, 2013