Environmental concerns...

26 October, 2012

I'm going out on a bit of a limb here, as this post doesn't really fit in with why I started this blog.

But the current draft appendix to the new Dietary Guidelines for Australians (a guideline which is essential to my work as a dietitian) which includes a section on an environmentally sustainable food supply - The Australian Dietary Guidelines through an Environmental Lens - has recently been under attack from industry groups. Said industry groups have worked hard to ensure this wasn't included in the original draft guidelines, and now appear to be lobbying to ensure this appendix document is dropped as well.

Community Affairs Legislation Committee - 17/10/2012 
 Liberal New South Wales Senator in Senate Estimates Committee
Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: How do you respond to the criticism—say, from various industry people—that environmental considerations did not have any place in dietary guidelines?
Prof. Anderson : I think the first thing I would like to emphasise is that there have been such environmental considerations in the Australian dietary guidelines for a long time, including—
Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: But not the predominant feature of the guidelines, Professor Anderson. I think that is really where the public criticism has come—that it is more environment than dietary.
Prof. Anderson : I do not think there will be anything more about environment in the new version than in this version, the previous one, really. There is a whole separate section in this one at the back, and this will be just an appendix—I think a fair critic would say less free-ranging than the previous version.
Ms Halton : That was a terrible pun, Mr Anderson.
Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: 'Free ranging'! Yes!
Ms Halton : Dreadful.
Prof. Anderson : I usually get some rebuke from the secretary.
Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: I always think 'diet' is 'die' with a T!
 Prof. Anderson : I would just make the point that I made before: that we think it would be unreasonable to leave health professionals—these guidelines are for health professionals—hanging when their clients ask about this. We hear from them frequently, and so much of the feedback says, 'You've really got to do something here; you've got to include some comment about how the individual guidelines—"Eat more of this; eat less of that"—affect environmental concerns.' What our expert committee has said is that eating in accord with the Australian Dietary Guidelines is itself minimising impact on the environment. So the clinical guidelines themselves do that. But I do think that it is an entirely reasonable thing for health professionals to expect some guidance from us so that they can give that to their clients.

If you think (as I do) that this appendix is an essential part of our national guidelines, then please provide this feedback to the NHMRC (who produce these documents). Many dietitians are writing their own submissions, but I think community opinion is essential to ensure that industry isn't the loudest voice in this discussion.

My feedback will include the following:
  • 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.
  • As a dietitan, I agree with the statement made in the draft ADG that “Increasingly, Australians are seeking advice from health [including dietitian-nutritionists] and medical practitioners about food choices and their possible impact on the environment”. For this reason, the inclusion of environment into the ADGs is vital to assist nutrition experts to provide evidence-based information to the public on this topic.
  • 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. 

The draft appendix and full details on how to make a submission can be found here. Consultation close on Friday 2nd November.

Now I will get off my soapbox, I promise.


  1. I found your soapbox really interesting. Is there nothing that corporates wont object to?

  2. No. Not when it doesn't serve their own interests.