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WA’s ham ban explained

At the beginning of 2024, the Western Australian government announced an update in the Healthy Food and Drink criteria underpinning their Student Health in Public Schools Policy.  There were many changes, but the one grabbing most of the headlines is the reclassification of ham and other processed red meats from AMBER to RED.

Many people have been asking about the reason for the change and what it means for Queensland school tuckshops.

All school-based healthy food and drink supply policies and strategies across Australia are underpinned by the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADGs), developed based on the best available evidence over a decade ago. The Western Australian Department of Health updated the WA School Food and Drink Criteria using several different sources of evidence emerging since the ADGs were developed in 2013.

Why the the ban on ham?

Ham is a processed meat, in the same category as sausages, frankfurters, salamis and bacon. The World Health Organisation found that consumption of processed meats causes bowel cancer, with each 50g daily portion increasing risk of cancer by 18%. Reclassifying these meats to RED in the WA School Food and Drink policy reduces the chances that children will consume them in amounts which may put them at increased risk of cancer as adults.

Do the changes apply in Queensland?

The Smart Choices strategy was last updated in 2020, but this was a minor review. At this stage there has been no announcement of a comprehensive review and update. So, for now, reduced fat and salt ham remains an AMBER product, and can be made GREEN as part of a meal containing salad or vegetables.

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