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Australia's food & nutrition 2012: in brief presents highlights from the AIHW's 2012 report on the nation's food and nutrition system.
For more information see Australia's food & nutrition 2012: in brief.This publication is also available in Apple iBooks.
Australia's food industry is complex and involves a range of people, places and processes.
It contributes significantly to our economy.
Australia produces a wide range of foods, enough to feed 60 million people.
The food industry can be divided into:
These groups are defined by the changes food undergoes. For example, growing fruit is part of a primary industry, canning it is a secondary industry, and selling canned fruit is a tertiary industry.
The food processing industry is the largest manufacturing industry in Australia. In terms of the value of food production, our largest agricultural industries are:
In 2010-11, Australia exported 18.6 million tonnes of wheat, 5.3 million tonnes of other grains, and 1.7 million tonnes of pulses (dried peas and beans).
Australia's horticulture industry includes the production of fruits, vegetables and nuts. The main fruit crops are oranges, apples, bananas, pears and mandarins. Potatoes and tomatoes are the main vegetable crops.
Australia also has a large dairy industry. Milk is used mostly for drinking, but also for making cheese, milk powder, butter and other dairy products. In 2009-10, about 45% of our milk was exported.
The livestock industry is our most valuable food production industry, and includes cattle, sheep, chicken and pigs. Australia is the second largest exporter of beef in the world and the eighth largest producer. In 2010-11, it made up 34% of farm and fish production, or 44% if including milk.
In 2011, there were about 29 million cattle in Australia, and about 91% of these were used for beef.
Australia's chicken industry is steadily growing. The number of chickens used for chicken meat increased from 433 million to 512 million between 2005 and 2010.
The food we produce can travel long distances to get to our plates.
Farm numbers in Australia have been declining in recent times, but the average size of farms has increased by about 23%.
Agricultural production is concentrated on larger farms, with 10% of farms producing more than 50% of output. Farming practices have also changed with the use of more intensive production systems and techniques.
Despite these trends, small farms are more common.
Of the food we eat, 90% is grown in Australia, and often travels long distances to reach us.
A recent study showed:
Australia is the 14th largest net exporter of food in the world.
We buy our food at supermarkets, delicatessens, butchers, bakeries, farmers, markets, fruit and vegetable stores and, more recently, online.
However, Australia has one of the most concentrated retail food sectors in the world. The two major supermarket chains own about one-third of all supermarkets in Australia, and more importantly have almost 80% of the packaged grocery market.
Food is essential for our health and wellbeing, so it is important that we understand about the food we eat.
In 2009-10, Australian households spent an average of $237 a week on food and beverages.
About $63 a week was spent on food prepared outside the home (restaurants and takeaways), and $32 a week on alcoholic drinks. Meat, fish and seafood collectively accounted for $30 a week on average.
Australians buy a wide range of food products. In 2010, more than 55,000 food items were available in supermarkets.
Between 2009 and 2011, the top five food categories sold (excluding fresh fruit and vegetables) were:
Australians generally prepare and eat their food at home. In 2009, most Australians (78%) reported eating a home-cooked meal around 5-6 nights a week. Females were more likely than males to report preparing the evening meal themselves (84% compared with 62%).
Takeaway was the next most popular option for evening meals (9%), followed by eating at a restaurant (8%), and home delivery (5%). Males were more likely than females to report eating out at restaurants, eating takeaway and eating home delivered food.
The foods we choose are influenced by price, availability, culture, personal preferences and health and nutrition concerns.
Food is an important part of our social and family lives, and the eating habits and preferences of those around us influence our food choices.
Personal beliefs also influence food choices, such as concerns about the environmental impact of growing particular foods, or the wellbeing of animals.
People may also choose foods based on health concerns, such as high blood pressure, allergies, high cholesterol, or a need to lose weight. In some circumstances, limited access to affordable fresh fruit and vegetables (among other products) may be an important factor influencing dietary choice.
Food labels present nutritional and other information to help consumers make safe and healthy food choices. Some labelling information is mandatory, while others are voluntarily added by manufacturers. Labelling must include a list of ingredients and food additives, as well as any potential allergens. A nutrition panel outlining levels of key nutrients is also required.
We use food labels:
Food labels must tell the truth and include:
Advertising may also influence people's food choices and behaviours.
Food advertising to children is very common and most is for foods high in fat, sugar or salt content.
Children who watch a lot of television are exposed to more food advertising. However, efforts are being made to reduce this.
Children who watch 20 hours of television or more per week (almost 3 hours per day) are twice as likely to be overweight or obese as children who watch less television.
Good nutrition can contribute to quality of life, help to maintain healthy body weight, protect against infections, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases and early death. Poor food intakes and related health problems are very common in Australia. So what can we do about it?
With the exception of breast milk for babies, no single food provides all the nutrients we need for good health-so it's important to eat a wide variety of foods and avoid restrictive diets.
Dietary requirements vary between individuals, and by sex and age. But in general, most experts recommend we:
The human body is made up of 55-75% water and needs fresh supplies everyday. About 6-8 glasses of water or other fluids can be consumed daily. People who are physically active, children, breastfeeding women and those in hot environments may need extra.
Most experts agree that babies should be fed only breast milk until around 6 months of age, when solid foods can be introduced in addition to breast milk.
In 2010, nearly all babies (96%) were breastfed initially. However at 6 months, just 15% drank only breast milk and 21% drank mainly breast milk with occassional water or juice.
For children, national nutrition surveys show:
For adults, national nutrition surveys show:
The number of people who are overweight or obese is continuing to rise-we have one of the highest rates of obesity in the world.
Body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference are the two main measures used for monitoring body weight.
BMI is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by the square of height in metres.
So, a man 1.8 metres in height, weighing 80kg would have a BMI of 80/1.82 = 24.7
underweight: BMI < 18.5healthy weight: BMI ≥ 18.5 and BMI < 25overweight but not obese: BMI ≥ 25 and BMI < 30obese: BMI ≥ 30.
Less than 94cm for menLess than 80cm in women
These classifications may not be suitable for children, older people and all ethnic groups.
For more information see the overweight and obesity snapshot.
Based on the latest national data:
Although all children gain weight as they grow, excess body weight occurs when more energy is eaten than used. Excess weight increases the risk of poor health during childhood and of developing chronic conditions as adults. Overweight children are also more likely to experience teasing and bullying.
Some foods undergo processing, for example, to extend shelf life, improve flavour, extend seasonal availability, or make them easier to store and transport.
Processing methods include canning, freezing, cooking, salting, smoking and milling.
Processing can change the nutrients in food. For example, heating food can destroy some nutrients, whereas freezing can help retain some nutrients.
Fortified foods contain added nutrients, for example, calcium in soy milks.
To address important public health concerns, in Australia, by law, bread-making flour must be fortified with folic acid and thiamin, and salt used in bread must be iodised.
Sometimes, manufacturers fortify foods voluntarily-for example, breakfast cereals are often fortified with vitamins and minerals.
Food is not only fundamental to our health and wellbeing, but our food supply system also affects the world around us.
Food waste isn't just leftover food on our plates: it includes all food and resources (for example, water and fuel) wasted from paddock to plate.
Up to half of all food produced worldwide is wasted. This causes nutrient losses and environmental effects, such as rapidly expanding landfill areas.
Each year, Australian households throw out about $600 of food, and nationally we waste about $5 billion of food.
The largest category thrown away in dollar terms is fruit and vegetables (just over $1.1 billion per year), closely followed by restaurant and takeaway food and then meat and fish.
Households with higher incomes waste more food; those with incomes above $80,000 waste an average of $803 worth of food per year compared with $518 for those with incomes of less than $40,000.
The global food system feeds more than 6 billion people, but not equally...
In Australia, basic nutritious foods in rural and remote areas can cost up to 30% more than in capital cities and be less available.
In Australia, like the rest of the world, the lower your socioeconomic status, the worse, on average, your health will be.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people in rural areas, those in disadvantaged areas and people with disabilities, generally have worse health than other Australians.
How inequality influences food choices and behaviours, and affects health is largely unknown and difficult to untangle.
However, it is clear that certain health risk factors are more common among these population groups and diet can be linked to these risk factors.
Because food is so important to our bodies, economy and environment, there are some challenges to be faced in the future.
Between 1950 and 2010, the world’s population increased from 2.5 to 6.9 billion and by 2050 is expected to be 9.3 billion.
To support this increasing population, food production will need to double by 2050.
With more people living in cities, it is likely that food supply and demand will be affected. In 2011, more than half of the world's population lived in urban areas-an important shift from the 1950s when the figure was less than 30%.
Globally, urban dwellers generally eat more meat and dairy foods and less fibre-rich grain foods, whereas rural dwellers eat more cereals, tubers and roots.
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations states that food security exists 'when all people, at all times, have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs for an active and healthy life'.
Global food production depends on land, water and energy (particularly fossil fuels) to produce, process and distribute food.
Fertile lands for food production are diminishing due to urbanisation, and land being increasingly diverted to mining and biofuel production.
Soils that are eroding, increasing in salt content and being depleted of nutrients threaten sustainable food production.
The world's supply of clean, fresh water is steadily decreasing, with demand exceeding supply in many parts of the world.
Agriculture currently accounts for 70% of freshwater from rivers, lakes and underground sources and most of this is used for irrigation.
Since 1961, the world's irrigated land has increased from 139 to 275 million hectares. This represents 20% of all cultivated land and provides more than 40% of the world's food.
The production of 1 kilogram of wheat requires about 1,000 litres of water, whereas about 5 to 10 times more water is required to produce 1 kilogram of meat.
Biodiversity is important to future food security, but is decreasing.
As a result, the food supply is becoming more vulnerable and potentially unsustainable.
Relying on one staple can be a problem. In the mid-1800s, a potato famine devastated Ireland's population and economy. Although the famine had many causes, the lack of genetic variation in Irish potatoes contributed to the severity of this disaster.
During this time, the potato was the staple crop for the poorest regions of Ireland and for more than 3 million people was their only significant food source. Farmers relied heavily on one main variety of potato, the 'lumper', as it produced greater yields than other varieties.
In 1845, a plant disease commonly referred to as potato blight spread rapidly through the poorer communities of western Ireland and caused massive crop failures, turning susceptible potatoes into inedible slime.
As a consequence, about 1 million people died of starvation and more than 1 million people emigrated.
Agriculture and food production are closely linked to climate change. Despite advances in farming practices, weather and climate are still major factors in determining productivity.
Evidence for climate change is growing, with increasing air and ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, and melting snow and ice.
The food and livestock industry is a major source of greenhouse gases, due to livestock emissions, soil disturbance, use of machinery and chemicals, food transportation and waste.
Agriculture contributes to greenhouse gas emissions through land clearing and methane releases.
According to some climate change experts, moderate increases in temperatures (1-3°C), along with increased carbon dioxide and rainfall changes, could benefit crop yields for some regions. However, warming of more than 3°C would have detrimental effects for all regions.