With rising levels of obesity, public health attention has turned to the “obesogenic environment”, which includes the ready availability of convenience foods. We seek to provide an historical account of the popularity of convenience foods, alongside an elaboration of how international and Australian experts believe convenience food has contributed to rising rates of obesity. In this context, the paper aims to speculate about the likely success of functional foods, or “phoods”, and draw conclusions about potential implications for the obesity epidemic.
An “expanded” Delphi survey was utilised to identify key trends underpinning the rise in obesity and expert's hypotheses about how these trends have operated to promote obesity. Elaborating on these data, an historical perspective of the emergence and consolidation of convenience foods in Australian diets, with particular attention paid to foods that offer “healthy convenience”, is provided.
Australian research shows how the growing consumption of convenience foods is contributing to upward trends in overweight. It is argued that the functional food sector is well placed in a context where consumers are being encouraged to embrace convenient food solutions, while also being concerned about the nutritional qualities of foods.
Whilst the development of healthy and convenient “phoods” may benefit people's health, the paper identifies how they may also undermine efforts to reduce the weight of the population. This makes the regulatory issue of health claims pivotal to balance the interests of the functional food sector and the public health community.
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