'Ban our fat Qld kids from soft drink and fruit juice'
QUEENSLAND will not consider new healthy eating laws to tackle what Health Minister Lawrence Springborg is calling "the fat epidemic".
The minister's comments came just hours after Queensland Health chief health officer Dr Jeanette Young challenged parents to ban their children from drinking soft drinks and fruit juices.
Dr Young made the plea as she released The Health Of Queenslanders 2012 report, which found one-in-10 children was obese and one-in-five was overweight.
It found a total of 200,000 Queensland children were too heavy to be healthy.
Mr Springborg said it was up to parents to take responsibility to ensure healthy eating at home.
The Government would bolster this by working with the other States to confront the growing health crisis.
More than half the State's health budget, he said, was being spent on "preventable lifestyle illnesses".
"We are talking a cost of billions and billions of dollars in our health system alone.
"A tax can only happen at a national level and I'm not going to go there.
"Certainly, the issue of education can work a bit but it's not often the best lever to bring about behavioural change.
"Regulation of tobacco brought about extraordinary behavioural change, as did taxation."
Mr Springborg was unsure if such radical reform would ever be rolled out to cover food.
But at the launch of the report on Wednesday, Dr Young did not sugarcoat the problem.
"Excess weight in childhood puts our children at higher risk of adult obesity and chronic disease," Dr Young said.
"Unfortunately, it sets them up with bad habits that last a lifetime."
Dr Young blamed junk food advertising, celebrity endorsement of unhealthy products and prizes including fast food for contributing to the problem.
"There is only so much that governments can do," she said.
"In the end, it is the parents or carers who choose what to put in their children's mouths."
The Australian Beverage Council - which represents Coca-Cola, Pepsi and a range of soft drink, juice and cordial companies - said it was disappointed with Dr Young's "simplistic approach" of advocating a blanket ban.
Chief executive Geoff Parker said the real issue was ensuring a balance between activity and what a child was consuming.
The report in full is available at www.health.qld.gov.au/ under "What's New".
- Only 60% of children eat enough fruit.
- Just 29% eat enough vegetables.
- 50% eat takeaway at least once a week.
- Less than 50%of Queensland children are active for an hour a day.
- 43% spent more than two hours a day using a screen for entertainment (not education).