Healthy choices: Policy directive frequently asked questions

How is this new policy different to the existing Healthy Choices that many health services are implementing?

When will health services be expected to meet the new Policy Directive​?

What support will be provided?

Who does the Policy apply to?

Is catering included?

What about catering for special occasions?

Are there any recommendations or restrictions on the provision of alcohol through catering / events for staff and visitors? 

What are sugary drinks?

Why are flavoured milks excluded from the 20% artificially sweetened AMBER drinks policy limit? 

Are commercial/private retail food outlets located in public health services included in the Policy Directive? 

How do we implement the policy targets for mixed vending machines?

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How is this new policy different to the existing Healthy Choices that many health services are implementing?

The Policy directive is based on the existingHealthy choices: food and drink classification guide and policy guidelines for hospitals and health servicesfor food, with a new requirement for sugary (or RED category) drinks not to be sold, provided or promoted in any in-house managed retail food outlets, all vending and all catering. In the past these guidelines were voluntary, but the Policy now requires all Victorian public health services implement the Healthy choices: Policy directive for public health services for their in-house managed food retail, all vending and all staff/visitor catering.

  • Food: Public health services will be required to meet the relevant Healthy Choices guidelines for food, meeting the targets of at least 50% GREEN food and no more than 20% RED foods for in-house retail food outlets and all vending. 
  • Drinks: Public health services will be required to meet the Policy directive with no sugary (or RED category) drinks to be sold or promoted in in-house retail food outlets and all vending. No more than 20% drinks containing artificial or intense sweeteners (classified AMBER) are to be available. At least 50% GREEN drinks to be provided in all vending and in-house food retail outlets.  
  • Catering: Public health services will be required to meet the existing Healthy choices: healthy eating policy and catering guide for workplaces – that is no RED foods/drinks to be provided and at least 50% GREEN foods/drinks. 

When will health services be expected to meet the new Policy Directive?

 The Healthy choices: Policy directive for public health services (in-house retail, catering and vending) was announced in early 2021 and came into effect in August 2021. Health services will be given time to meet this new policy directive, with it being phased in across the next two years.

What support will be provided?

The Healthy Eating Advisory Service are the experts in supporting health services to understand and implement the Healthy Choices guidelines and Policy directive.

We can help your organisation to meet the Policy directive with:

  • Coaching and training for staff on implementing the Healthy Choices guidelines
  • Assistance with engaging with staff and contractors, and developing organisational policies
  • Tailored advice on healthier menus, recipes and products
  • Access to online menu, recipe and product assessments, using FoodChecker

Who does the Policy apply to?

The Policy applies to:

  • public hospitals and health services
  • public sector residential aged care services
  • integrated community health services operated under the management of a public health service
  • mental health services that operate under management of a public health service

Is catering included?

  • the provision of healthier food and drinks through catering* provided by public health services is included in the new Policy directive, in line with the Healthy choices: healthy eating policy and catering guide for workplaces. This includes catering ordered by the health service from any food outlet - internal or external.
  • Whilst not included in the policy directive, health services are encouraged to promote and communicate their healthy catering policy to any external groups using their facilities, for example community support groups.

*catering applies to staff procuring food and drinks with health service (government funds) for meetings, functions, and events. This includes occasions such as workshops, conferences, community events, launches, celebrations and ceremonies, as well as client or community education, information, or training programs.

What about catering for special occasions?

The Healthy choices: Policy directive for public health services has a requirement that only GREEN or AMBER food and drink options are provided at staff and event catering* with no RED options are to be provided. Whilst RED food and drink options should be avoided wherever possible, it is recognised that health services may provide small amounts of RED foods or drinks for occasional and defined events. If they are provided on those occasions, it should be in line with the following:

  • ideally, ordered with prior approval of a relevant executive or delegate
  • if alcohol** is provided, it must be served responsibly in compliance with Victorian liquor regulations
  • be clearly documented and communicated in a relevant organisational policy (e.g., catering, health and wellbeing, or OH&S policies).

**For further information, refer to the responsible service of alcohol on the Victorian Commission of Gaming and Liquor Regulation website and the Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol.

Recommendations on the provision of alcohol by public health services, as part of catering for events for staff/visitors, is in line with guidance provided in the Healthy choices: healthy eating policy and catering guide for workplaces.

Are there any recommendations or restrictions on the provision of alcohol through catering / events for staff and visitors? 

Please refer to the question and answer above ('catering for special occasions') in regards to alcohol provision.

What are sugary drinks?

For information on sugary drinks click here.

Why are flavoured milks excluded from the 20% artificially sweetened AMBER drinks policy limit? 

The Healthy choices: Policy directive for health services includes a limit on the proportion of artificially sweetened AMBER category drinks that can be available or promoted via in-house retail outlets and vending machines. Flavoured milks/alternatives that may contain artificially sweetener are not counted in this limit. This is to be consistent with the way flavoured milks/alternatives are assessed under the Healthy choices: food and drink classification guide (i.e. based on fat and kilojoule content). For more information on the AMBER artificially sweetened drinks, visit the Healthy Eating Advisory Service drinks webpage.

Are commercial/private retail food outlets located in public health services included in the Policy directive? 

All Victorian public health services are strongly encouraged to implement the Healthy choices: Policy directive for health services across all of their retail food outlets – both in-house and privately/commercially managed.

However, ensuring that in-house managed retail food outlets meet the new Healthy choices: Policy directive for public health services is a first step in a phased approach to ensuring the provision and promotion of healthier food and drinks in our public health services.

This will help Victorian health services meet the target in the Victorian Cancer Plan 2020-2024 for “at least 80 per cent of hospital and health services’ retail outlets and vending machines to meet recommended Victorian nutrition standards” by 2024.

How do we implement the policy targets for mixed vending machines? 

For mixed vending machines (that contain both food and drinks), the policy requirements/targets are slightly modified. For more information on vending click here.

For more information on vending click here.

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