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Liam Butler talks to CEO of NZ Food and Grocery Council

Liam Butler talks to Katherine Rich - CEO of New Zealand Food and Grocery Council

27 January 2014

Katherine Rich is the CEO of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council, the industry body representing food and grocery manufacturers and marketers.

Deborah Cohen is a senior natural scientist at US think tank Rand Corp. and the author of the forthcoming book A Big Fat Crisis. She states that...

"if Americans did not live in a world filled with buffets, cheap fast food, soft drinks with corn syrup, and too many foods with excess fat, salt and sugar, the incidence of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes probably would plummet. Education can help, but what's really needed is regulation - for example, limits on marketing that caters to our addiction to sugar and fat."

Katherine can you please share how you think a tax could possibly put the elderly at risk and what the FGC can do to improve the wellbeing of older people who are overweight?

Some public health nutrition experts advise that price increases, such as those caused by a tax on sugar, are a barrier to people on low incomes eating healthily, and could lead to a long-term increase in obesity and other health problems. That's because such a tax would put up the price of a huge number of foods, including many staple foods, forcing those who could least afford it, including elderly people on fixed incomes, to switch to cheaper, less nutritious options. It could well mean they would be swapping one ingredient for a worse one.A tax on sugar would not improve health, it would just penalise moderate consumption. It's important to keep this in perspective. We all need some sugar (and salt and fat) in our diets to keep us healthy, as long as we consume it in moderation. That is the key. Even if sugar were to be removed from popular products, consumers would immediately switch to other brands with their desired taste profile and nothing would have been achieved.

FGC believes education is the key to better health, and our members are involved in programmes which promote both healthier food choices and the importance of exercise. FGC takes every opportunity to promote moderation in our diets.

The Ministry of Health, the Nutrition Foundation, the Heart Foundation, and Age Concern all have excellent resources and advice on nutrition and recommendations for keeping active for older people. The Ministry of Health has also published a paper, updated last year, entitled Health and Nutrition Guidelines for Older People. Some websites that Eldernet Gazette readers might find useful and interesting are:

Deborah Cohen cites research from the U.S. that "44 per cent of male doctors in the US are overweight. A study by the University of Maryland School of Nursing found that 55 per cent of nurses surveyed were overweight or obese". What can FGC do to improve the wellbeing of such health professionals in N.Z?

I wasn't aware of this figure. It's an interesting fact. This question would be better directed to an organisation such as the Royal College of General Practitioners, one of whose roles is promoting self-care among the profession. Their website is FGC believes education is the key to healthier eating for everyone.

Making sure all consumers have adequate information about the food they are buying can make a huge difference, and we have been contributing to the New Zealand/Australian development of an improved labelling regime on food to encourage consumers to make better choices. But labelling is not a magic solution to the obesity problem.

The recent decision by the Government to broaden the way nutrition content and health claims are made on food products is a great step forward in that it will give consumers more information that is evidence-based.

Link to Deborah Cohen's article:


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