There is an undeniable growing concern about the detrimental effects of sugar on the health of our children. The association between sugar intake and obesity, diabetes, dental caries and other adverse health effects are increasingly hard to ignore. In March 2014, the WHO released its Draft Guideline on Sugar intake for adults and children. They recommend that sugar intake be reduced to less than 5% of energy intake. In addition, the current Australian Dietary Guidelines released in 2013 recommend to “limit intake” of added sugars.
Children are a particularly vulnerable group in our society and the government has a specific duty of care with regard to their health and wellbeing while they are at school. Children are taught about the importance of good food and healthy eating as part of the education syllabus, however this is strangely contradicted by the types of foods endorsed by government for sale in school canteens.
Alarmingly, the current school canteen guidelines that exist across ALL Australian States and Territories DO NOT assess the sugar content of foods allowed for sale within schools. This is in DIRECT CONTRAST to the current Australian Dietary Guidelines recommendation to limit sugar intake as well as the recent WHO recommendation to reduce sugar intake to less than 5 per cent of energy. For children, this equates to about 3 teaspoons a day.
As a member of the Australian community, I believe that this is completely unacceptable.
I therefore support an urgent “call to action” for the review of all existing canteen guidelines across Australian States and Territories to include a specified limit to added sugar content as a criteria for foods sold in schools, with a view to dramatically reduce sugar intake amongst children.
Furthermore, I believe that the updated guidelines should be adopted under mandatory schemes that include monitoring and compliance campaigns to ensure adherence by individual schools.
The importance of reducing sugar intake in our society cannot be understated. The government has a key role in protecting our children from the harmful effects of sugar. Allowing school canteens to continue to sell sugary foods is failing our children in this regard. Your attention to this issue is required as a matter of urgency.
Kieron Rooney and Sarah Wilson, I Quit Sugar