Cessnock Healthier Oils Program

Design Feature
Type of Project
Local Government Initiative
New South Wales

Consuming too much saturated and trans fat is one of the key factors contributing to an increased risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke. Cessnock local government area, located in regional New South Wales, has one of the highest rates of cardiovascular death in the state. Cessnock City Council has been implementing the Heart Foundation Healthier Oils Program (HOP) since 2011, with great success.

Switching to healthier oils

The program aims to reduce saturated and trans fat intake by encouraging small local food outlets through to large national food service providers to switch to healthier cooking oils. The program covers all oils used in food preparation and the criteria that need to be met are 21g/100g or less of saturated fat, and 1g/100g or less of trans fat. A working group was established in 2011 to oversee the planning, implementation and evaluation of a healthier oils program for the Cessnock Local Government Area, with representatives from the Heart Foundation New South Wales, Cessnock City Council Environmental Health Officers (EHOs), Coalfields Healthy Heartbeat and a community dietitian.

In 2012, a need to collaborate with the local food service sector became apparent and two local food business representatives joined the working group, contributing expertise in purchasing and using frying oils in a food service setting.

The objectives of the Healthier Oils Program agreed upon were:

  1. Raising the awareness of business operators about oils that are high in saturated and trans fat that increase the risk of heart disease.
  2. Encouraging at least 20% of businesses to adopt healthier oils by December 2016.
  3. Developing a relationship with food businesses and the community to support the program.
  4. Implementing a communications strategy for residents to adopt a healthier food supply.
  5. Incorporating healthy food supply objectives into Cessnock Council Policies.

Council EHOs were tasked with encouraging and monitoring change in oil use amongst food operators as part of their regular site visits for public health safety. Businesses participating in the HOP were awarded a certificate which could be displayed at the business to raise awareness about the program and inform consumers.

Fish and chips with healthier oil.
Fish and chips with healthier oil.

In December 2011, the program was officially launched and promoted by Cessnock City Council through their website and inclusion of program information in annual food safety newsletters, calendars sent to businesses, and updates in various forums and courses. In 2013, the Heart Foundation began conducting ongoing evaluations of the HOP in Cessnock through surveys of food outlets, consumers and the increase in number of food outlets implementing the program over time.

Encouraging local food outlets to switch to healthier cooking oils.
Encouraging local food outlets to switch to healthier cooking oils.

The program was found to be effective in encouraging the substitution of healthier oils for oils high in saturated and trans fats and in increasing awareness amongst food outlets of the health benefits of switching. All objectives were achieved, or exceeded, as seen in the outcomes in the values sections below. This has subsequently improved access to, and the availability of, healthier food options supporting a healthy food environment.

The HOP is a replicable program and has expanded to include several large New South Wales clubs, and is now being implemented by Blacktown Council with a focus on the many cafes and restaurants in the area.

Project team

  • Heart Foundation New South Wales
  • Cessnock City Council
  • Samaritans Foundation
  • Community Dietitian

Project cost

$20,000 to initiate the program

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