Deakin University’s Global Obesity Centre examined the 11 biggest fast food restaurants operating in the country and ranked them based on their commitment to nutrition.
The study, which covered around 67 per cent of the market, used all of the adverts, menus, labels and other public information put out by brands.
The report concludes that the majority of popular fast food restaurants in Australia don’t quite identify health as their top priority.
According to the research, there is an overall lack of commitment from these big food chains into reducing salt, sugar and saturated fat from their menu.
The restaurants were given a score out of 100 points based on six factors:
The disclosure of nutritional information on menus and online; plans to reduce sugar and saturated fat; their overall commitment to health as a corporate strategy; and their marketing reach to children.
Subway, which scored a not-so-flattering 48/100, actually topped the list.
Domino’s Pizza, on the other hand, earned bottom place with just 3/100, scoring zero in each category but one.
Subway and Nando’s were the only two companies to collaborate with the study and offer further information.
“Unhealthy diets are creating a public health crisis in Australia,” said the author of the report, Associate Professor Gary Sacks of Deakin University’s Faculty of Health.
Australians spend almost a third of their food budget – 32 per cent according to this particular study – on eating out and take away, which makes these results chilling to say the least.
Dr Sacks said companies should not be offering deals for sugar-laden products and instead should focus on marketing healthy, cheap options to consumers.
“The majority of items we see heavily promoted are unhealthy ones, like $1 frozen cokes,” he remarked.
“There’s a real opportunity for fast food companies to help address the problem by introducing policies that make healthier choices, like water and fruit or salad, the automatic option for kids meals.”
Some retailers responded negatively to the report. Burger chain Grill’d, which scored a meagre 10/100, said it was considering legal action, calling the research “flawed, misleading and deceptive”.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Simon Crowe, founder of Grill’d, said he was “furious” that his company had been “lumped in with a bunch of fast food outlets”.
“My concern is that the researcher who undertook this work appears not to have thoroughly examined the Grill’d website which clearly states our position on the survey questions,” Grill’d founder Simon Crowe said.
Domino’s Pizza also took offence to the findings, releasing a statement to say the company “already meets or exceeds a number of the recommendations in the report.”
“Domino’s does not market to children, nor feature children in our advertising. This is something we feel passionately about and is a core driver of our brand values,” the company said.
“We don’t want to take our customers’ treat away. Domino’s customers recognise our food is an indulgence, and have responded positively to the ingredient improvements we have introduced.”
Read the complete study for more information.