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Here’s your Accord - Would you like fries?

September 2004

Here’s your Accord. Would you like fries with that?

Tomorrow (Thursday, September 2) a group of food, advertising and media organisations are to launch a Food Industry Accord which is being billed as “a major industry initiative to help address the issue of obesity in New Zealand”.

The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) is pleased these industries are aware of the obesity problem and that they recognise they can have a part to play in reversing the upward trend of obesity in New Zealand.

However OAC reserves judgement on whether Accord will achieve positive results.

“It could be good or, it could just be a very well funded lobby against the best measures for public health and a powerful advocate for industry interests,” says Celia Murphy, Executive Director of OAC.

“These industries have expertise in selling - not public health,” Ms Murphy says. “The public health measures needed to deal with obesity will be around reducing consumption of many of the most commonly advertised foods.”

OAC will watch with interest to see just what the Accord means, she says.

OAC believes positive results of the Accord could include: An improved food supply – ie fewer high fat, high sugar foods on the market. A reduction of sugar and fat in existing products – eg 10% less sugar in all biscuits, 10% less fat in all chippies - so fat and sugar intakes are reduced for everyone. Labelling which clearly identifies high fat, high sugar foods. An increase in the number of affordable healthy foods. Less advertising of high sugar, high fat foods - especially to children.

However OAC is concerned much less positive results are also possible. These might include: Advertising which draws attention to a much needed increase in physical activity but away from the need to eat less high sugar, high fat foods. Advertising campaigns emphasising good eating competing with persistent, vigorous advertising for high sugar, high fat foods which create confusion for consumers, especially children. Positive-message advertising campaigns won’t make enough difference if the “good” advertisements are outnumbered by those for poor foods. More specially manufactured and marketed “healthy foods” added to supermarket shelves that are sold at a premium price alongside less healthy but cheaper foods which are more affordable. “Good citizen” public relations campaigns which are simply advertising for brands of high sugar, high fat foods. More blaming of individuals in the guise of “personal and parental responsibility” while persistent, persuasive advertising for high sugar, high fat foods make these foods seem the normal and desirable choice.

OAC points out that one of the key messages of the Government’s Healthy Eating Healthy Action Strategy is “Eat less fatty, salty and sugary foods”.

“We hope the industry accord will promote this ‘eat less’ message even though it may be in direct conflict with industry’s imperative to make a profit.” says Ms Murphy.

OAC hopes the Accord is not just a ploy to seduce government into side-lining any discussion on legislative change which might restrict industry freedom to advertise and sell whatever they choose, Ms Murphy says.

ENDS

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