Qld leads charge on junk food crackdown

Stuart Layt

The Queensland government will move to ban the state's public hospitals from selling junk food and sugary drinks by the end of the year.

The state government is ramping up its fight against obesity, which will also include bans on marketing unhealthy junk food and drinks at government-owned facilities.

The crackdown will force hospital vending machines and cafes to move to healthier products, with Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles saying they should lead by example.

"By the end of the year, we'll have a set of nationally-agreed standards for healthier food and drink choices in public health care facilities," Mr Miles said in a statement.

"I want to see these standards phase-out sugary drinks and junk food from hospital vending machines, kiosks and other outlets."

The Australian Beverages Council said it was blindsided by the development.

"Obesity and childhood obesity in particular is a really tough problem, but when the average Queenslander is getting less than two per cent of their daily kilojoules from soft drinks, and only a fraction of that would be consumed in hospital cafeterias, clearly this is a band-aid fix," spokesman Geoff Parker told ABC Radio.

However the Cancer Council has welcomed the move, with CEO Chris McMillan saying sugary drinks are a major source of sugar for children.

"We have a responsibility, together with community groups and health authorities, to facilitate healthy choices and limit the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and junk food and regulate the marketing of junk food to children," she said.

The measures are part of a new set of guidelines to reduce children's exposure to unhealthy food and drink promotion, with the strategy signed off during a meeting of state and territory health ministers on Thursday.

Mr Miles said about a quarter of Queensland children are overweight or obese, and that shows the urgent need to limit access and exposure to unhealthy choices.

The guidelines focus on high-sugar items that are heavily-promoted to children, such as soft drinks, chocolate, lollies, burgers and deep-fried foods.

They are voluntary, but Mr Miles said all states and territories should follow Queensland's lead.

"Frankly, the number of obese children will continue to rise if governments across the country don't take significant action to combat the obesity crisis," he said.