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Radical approach to fighting obesity needed

24 August, 2004

Radical approach to fighting obesity needed

Green MP Sue Kedgley today urged the Government to investigate a 'fat tax' starting with soft drinks to tackle the growing problem of obesity, as proposed by Diabetes New Zealand and Fight the Obesity Epidemic, in combination with other measures.

Ms Kedgley, the Green Party's Health spokesperson, said the Government had failed to act on curbing the culture of fast food - as a result New Zealand is bringing up successive generations of increasingly unhealthy children.

"Trying to reduce obesity in the present environment, where the food industry is constantly targeting children, is like trying to treat an alcoholic in a town where there's a bar every ten feet," said Ms Kedgley.

"We need to look at more radical options, such as a 'fat tax' on soft drinks and free fruit and vegetables in schools, if we are to tackle the obesity epidemic in New Zealand.

"The Government's failure to provide any new funding for its obesity strategy means that it amounts to little more than window dressing and will not begin to turn the tide on the obesity epidemic," she said.

Ms Kedgley said that the relentless targeting of children by the manufacturers of junk food was one of the major factors behind the obesity epidemic - even worse was the fact that the cash-strapped education system allowed advertising of unhealthy foods and fast food chains in schools.

She believed a 'fat tax' should be investigated as part of a package of measures designed to try to curb our obesity epidemic, starting with a tax on high-sugar soft drinks.

"I strongly support the call for a trial for free breakfasts to be provided at schools and for free fruit and vegetables to be given to school pupils. Some lower-decile schools have initiated this strategy and have had marvellous results with the achievement levels and well-being of their students.

"A 'fat tax' must be complimented by the prohibition of advertising of junk food to children and ensuring that all schools are marketing free zones - policies that the Green Party has long advocated.

"The Government's long-awaited social report confirms that the health of New Zealanders is getting worse, with 17 per cent of people over 15 classed as obese. Unhealthy habits start young - the sooner we target better eating for our children, the better the health of New Zealand will be," she said.

ENDS

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