09 Dec Health Coalition Aotearoa responds to the NZ food industry report
A food industry taskforce report addressing factors contributing to obesity has just been released amidst concerns that the industry-led plan is not a proportionate response to the massive scale of the obesity epidemic with health groups appalled at the Government’s response to a problem that is causing hospitals to burst at the seams.
The report highlights 51 recommendations which purport to deliver a ‘package of practical measures’ by addressing five main areas including reformulation and innovation, employee health and wellness programmes, education initiatives, food and beverage marketing, and the Health Star Rating system.
Spokesperson for the Health Coalition Aotearoa, Professor Nick Wilson, gave both the industry report and the Government’s delayed response a D-Fail grade.
“The obesity crisis demands strong action using government-led policies, not vague, voluntary deals with the junk food industry.”
The Health Coalition analysed the 51 recommendations from the industry’s report and found that 13 contained some positive actions but only if they were significantly strengthened, three were not industry commitments and 35 were classified as ‘smoke and mirrors’ recommendations because they were either business as usual, distracting and not relevant, or potentially harmful.
Professor Wilson was alarmed to see how far the junk food industry had already infiltrated into schools and nutrition education claiming that they reached 900,000 people annually.
“Nutrition education, especially for children, is a fundamental government responsibility and there should be no place for the vested interests of the food industry to be involved.”
The Government’s response highlighted four areas of priority for addressing obesity, including restricting food marketing to children, reformulation and labelling, creating healthier retail environments, and government-led monitoring and evaluation. While no further details were provided, the Health Coalition supported action in these areas but said that for them to be effective they needed strong government leadership, regulations where possible and proper funding for the monitoring and evaluation.
“These areas of priority action have previously been recommended by expert groups along with other effective strategies like taxing sugary drinks and having mandatory health school food policies,” said Prof Wilson.
“The Health Coalition is keen to support Government deliver a comprehensive approach including comprehensive policy action to tackle the growing obesity epidemic.”