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NZ: FOE media release on Health Committee Inquiry report

Government response crucial for progress on obesity

Anti-obesity group FOE (Fight the Obesity Epidemic) has welcomed recommendations in a Health Select Committee report to Parliament.

The report is aimed at combating New Zealand’s growing weight crisis. It follows a 15 month inquiry into obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The Committee is calling for a much stronger approach to prevent obesity. Key recommendations include no advertising of unhealthy food on TV before 8.30pm, and a clear and effective labelling system such as ‘traffic lights’ on packaging to help consumers identify unhealthy food.

FOE spokesperson Dr Robyn Toomath says if adopted the recommendations would have a huge impact on the current crisis. “This report confirms that dietary changes are crucial”, she said. “The Committee also recognises the importance of changing the environment to make healthy choices easier and cheaper.”

Dr Toomath says the report agrees that current government-led actions and voluntary efforts by industry are not enough.

The Committee’s report calls for the food and advertising industries to meet measurable targets contributing to obesity prevention. These targets would have “strict and reasonably short timeframes”, and would lead to regulation if not met.

But Dr Toomath says FOE has no confidence that industry will deliver.

“We agree with the report’s observation that the food and beverage industry is not doing enough to prevent obesity, despite having an important role in causing it.”

“FOE would prefer to see regulation now but we prepared to give voluntary targets a go as long they deliver quickly, and with regulation as a backstop.”

The government will be responding to the report within 90 days.

Dr Toomath says the nature of that response is critical.

“The report has huge implications for every individual and family in New Zealand. It demonstrates that current initiatives are well short of what is needed.”

FOE says it’s disappointed by some aspects of the report, particularly the failure to recommend consideration of price incentives (e.g. tax changes or subsidies) to encourage healthier eating.

Dr Toomath believes the recommended time frames for introducing targets and monitoring programmes are unnecessarily long.

She was also disappointed by the National Party’s rejection of regulation in favour of education. “This approach is guaranteed to fail”, she said. “It’s sending exactly the wrong message to industry.”

“Nevertheless, the report accurately outlines many of the additional activities that must be undertaken in order to deal with obesity. We must now focus on seeing that the government takes on board its recommendations.”

ENDS

Published on August 31, 2007 in FOE media releases,New Zealand news,Obesity Inquiry