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Submission Calls For Radical Action On Obesity

17 May 2006

FOE Submission Calls For Radical Action On Obesity

Bans on all forms of advertising unhealthy foods to children were proposed by Fight the Obesity Epidemic NZ Inc (FOE) in its submission today to the Health Select Committee Inquiry into Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.

Among other recommendations are calls for prohibition of the sale of unhealthy foods by schools, banning sponsorship arrangements between the manufacturers of unhealthy foods and schools and junior sport, and changes that would increase the price of unhealthy foods and reduce that of healthy foods.

In presenting the FOE submission to the Committee, Dr Robyn Toomath referred to her experience as a doctor dealing with diabetic patients. "I have seen so many cases where intelligent, well-informed people try desperately to lose weight to manage their diabetes and other health problems, but are unable to achieve sustained weight loss", Dr Toomath told the Committee. She went on to say that "current measures to address obesity are not working, and they will not work until there are major changes to the environment that is making more of us fatter."

The FOE submission notes that current initiatives under the Government's Healthy Eating - Healthy Action (HEHA) strategy have been shown by many international studies to be ineffective without major changes to the environment. The submission states that "We must avoid concluding that these initiatives will by themselves be significant in turning around the obesity epidemic in children. To do that we must address the total environment in which children live, and in the face of which schools (and parents too) are relatively powerless."

The submission is dismissive of the Food Industry Accord, a voluntary initiative by the food industry in response to obesity. Its "key achievements" are attacked by FOE as "much more likely to be negative rather than positive in terms of obesity prevention" because of the heavy emphasis on sponsorship by companies such as McDonald's and Cadbury Confectionery. Recent changes to the voluntary advertising codes are also criticised as making little or no difference to what actually appears on TV.

"It is clear that reliance on greater personal responsibility and voluntary steps by industry will fail, and that regulation is required", Dr Toomath said.

Dr Toomath stressed that in five years time everyone will realise that while FOE's proposals might seem radical now, they are necessary for reversing the alarming increases in obesity and type 2 diabetes in New Zealand. "I implore you not to wait five years as much ground will be lost in that time", she said to the Committee. "Our submission makes a very strong case for change, and deserves to be widely read by decision makers". The submission is available at www.foe.org.nz.

About FOE Fight the Obesity Epidemic

(FOE) is a voluntary organisation working to promote policies to stop and reverse the rise of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in children. It is working to change the New Zealand social, cultural, physical and regulatory environment so that it is easier for all New Zealanders, especially children, to maintain a healthy body weight.

ENDS


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