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Sugar tax not the answer to obesity: Hunt

AAP logoAAP 20/02/2017 Sarah Wiedersehn

The Turnbull government isn't swallowing the latest advice from nutrition experts for a sugar tax and junk food bans to tackle the obesity crisis in Australia.

Minister for Health Greg Hunt says the coalition is tackling obesity but increasing the family's weekly grocery bill is not the answer.

"We do not support a new tax on sugar to address this issue," Mr Hunt said in a statement on Monday.

Instead, the government has been working to implement a raft of initiatives to "encourage all Australians to live healthy lives", including the $7 million Girls Make Your Move campaign and the $160 million Sporting Schools program.

"Our Health Star Rating system helps people to make healthier choices when choosing packaged foods at the supermarket and encourages the food industry to reformulate their products to be healthier," Mr Hunt said.

The Obesity Policy Coalition on Monday released a 47-point plan, compiled by 100 experts from 53 organisations, to help improve the diets of Australians.

The landmark study recommends taxing junk food, especially sugary drinks, to make them more expensive and reducing advertising and marketing of those products to children.

One Nation leader Senator Pauline Hanson © Provided by AAP One Nation leader Senator Pauline Hanson

With two out of three Australians considered either overweight or obese the federal government needed to take leadership on the obesity crisis, said Dr Gary Sacks, the leader of the study and a Senior Research Fellow at the Global Obesity Centre at Deakin University.

"It can't be that we are all inadequate human beings the problems is we live in an environment where junk food is everywhere, it's heavily marketed and in a lot of cases it's really cheap," Dr Sacks told AAP.

Outspoken crossbench senators Pauline Hanson and Derryn Hinch came out swinging against the fresh calls for a sugar tax, while the food industry also rubbished the report.

One Nation leader Ms Hanson, a former fish and chip shop owner, said it was "about time" people took responsibility for what food they put in their mouths.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) chief executive officer Gary Dawson agreed.

"Highly interventionist policies like banning certain foods and imposing new food taxes are like putting a bureaucrat in every kitchen, when we know that for most people the answer is simply to move a bit more and eat a bit less," Mr Dawson said.

Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten denied any plan for a sugar tax but said it was time to toughen up restrictions on junk food advertising directed at children.

"For me this is all about kids and their future and their health. If you have a healthy childhood you have a better adult life," Mr Shorten said while speaking in Ipswich on Monday.

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