Industry reactions as Heart Foundation changes the rules on meat, dairy and eggs

Industry reactions as Heart Foundation changes the rules on meat, dairy and eggs

HEARTY MEAL: There are mixed reactions from industry bodies to the Heart Foundation's new guidelines, which support more eggs, full cream milk and less meat for healthy Australians.

HEARTY MEAL: There are mixed reactions from industry bodies to the Heart Foundation's new guidelines, which support more eggs, full cream milk and less meat for healthy Australians.


Heart Foundations' new recommendations raise questions about mixed messages.


FULL fat dairy is back in the shopping trolley but perhaps you had better rethink your lamb chops and sirloin.

Meanwhile, eggs, which were in, then out, are in again.

The Heart Foundation's newly-updated health guidelines come with the understanding they are designed for cardiovascular health.

Even so, this latest installment in dietary recommendations seems to really highlight the issue of mixed messages.

The Heart Foundation, the Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG) and Eat-Lancet, all high profile and credible organisations, sing from different hymn sheets in more than one instance.

For example, the ADG recommend 455 grams of unprocessed red meat a week, compared to 350g from The Heart Foundation and Eat-Lancet's 98g (which also includes pork).

Milk producers have something to celebrate in The Heart Foundation's latest message, albeit well overdue.

Dairy Australia human health and nutrition policy manager Melissa Cameron said the science saying fresh cow's milk does not contribute to higher human cholesterol was well established.

"Fat is within a matrix of nutrients within the dairy food," Ms Cameron said.

"When we have fat with other nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, they work together in a synergistic relationship so the impact of having the fat alone or with other nutrients is actually minimised.

"Calcium bonds with the fat and then is excreted, there's all these relationships with the other nutrients.

"That's why saturated fat and even sodium at times don't have the impact that you would get from eating it within a biscuit or a cake or pie, or another sort of food.

"The Heart Foundation is up to date with the evidence now, they're taking a big step forward and leading the debate around the world."

On the other hand, beef and lamb producers might well be concerned.

It is the first time the health body has put a specific limit on the amount of red meat it recommends Australians consume.

But just how much effect does this type of dietary advice actually have at the till?

A varied effect, it seems.

Dairy Australia dietitian Glenys Zucco said health and taste were the two main purchase drivers for dairy, so recommendations from credible health organisations were very important.

However, Ms Zucco said the updated Heart Foundation advice would play an even larger role where people visit health professionals with concerns around heart disease or weight.

"In the past, their advice might have been to go low fat," she said.

"For many people, that meant no dairy at all because low fat doesn't suit their tastes."

The latest data from Dairy Australia shows that in 2018-19, more than two-thirds of consumers purchased full cream milk over skim and non-fat varieties from supermarkets, a 12 per cent increase from just 56pc of consumers a decade earlier.

The updated advice means the Heart Foundation has removed its previous restriction on regular fat milk, cheese and yoghurt.

The organisation has confirmed that these products do not increase or decrease the risk of heart disease or stroke, and are a source of healthy nutrients like calcium.

Dairy Australia hopes the Health Star Rating labelling system will follow suit.

Encouragingly, an independent review report for the labelling released last week recommended all milk and yoghurt receive at least three stars.

"Unfortunately, about 50pc of cheese would still score less than three stars and that is really misaligned with the Heart Foundation's position," Ms Cameron said.

The government will consider the report by the end of this year.

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) chief marketing and communications officer Lisa Sharp pointed out there was plenty of alignment between the Heart Foundation message and that of the red meat industry in that variety, balance and focus on the full meal were the overarching principles.

However, in developing its programs, MLA looks to the ADG and advocates 130g every second day.

"The Heart Foundation report has a focus on heart disease and through that lens revisited its red meat consumption recommendations but we look to the ADG because they consider a range of factors relevant to all Australians including the amounts of food needed to meet desired nutrient intake," Ms Sharp said.

MLA data shows most Australian men are eating red meat in line with, or in some cases slightly above, the dietary guidelines but women and children are consuming less than recommended amounts.

Ms Sharp said MLA's consumer insight work showed while most Australians understood and valued the nutritional benefits of red meat, some were confused about what level of consumption was good for their health.

"There is also confusion about many other foods because there is simply a lot of conflicting dietary information available," she said.

MLA research also shows the number one driver for meat purchase is still price.

The new recommendations from the Heart Foundation highlight the need for the Australian government to take a population-focused approach to food and nutrition, according to the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA).

The DAA wants a review of the ADG as part of a new national nutrition policy and president Phil Juffs said a more coordinated approach was required.

Mr Juffs said while the DAA supported the Heart Foundation's updates as focusing on the role a healthy diet plays in reducing cardiovascular disease, ADGs were dietitians' premier source of framework.

"If you take a step back from the revised position statements about meat, eggs and dairy, the big picture hasn't really changed, it's about variety, unprocessed food, lots of fruit and veg, legumes, nuts and seeds," he said.

"Credible organisations will still release their position statements and so they should.

"But the key is tailored information, what's important to the individual.

"Members of the public need to be able to tie it all together in a way that works for them."


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