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Food policy aims to stem obesity tide

Food policy aims to stem obesity tide

A $20 million Nutrition Fund, a 'traffic light' labelling system to identify healthy food and free fruit in all primary and preschools, are just some of the initiatives launched today in the Green Party's food policy.

"Poor diet is the biggest cause of preventable death in this country. The cost to the health system is enormous. Obesity alone is estimated to cost $303 million a year," Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"Kiwi parents are being outgunned by food companies promoting unhealthy fat, sugar and salt laden foods to our kids. Unless we make sweeping changes to protect our children from the overwhelming commercial pressures on them to eat unhealthy food, dietary-related diseases will overwhelm our health system and many of the present generation of children may die before their parents," Ms Kedgley says.

In consultation with a dietician, the Green Party has calculated how much sugar, salt and fat teenagers eating an unhealthy diet of mainly processed foods are likely to consume over a year.

"A teenager eating food that is sold in most New Zealand schools and drinking a couple of soft drinks a day is likely to consume four times as much sugar, and almost twice the amount of fat and salt than they should be eating - on a routine basis.

"When we have teenagers eating 70 teaspoons of sugar a day, and consuming more than their own weight (about 80kg) in sugar (over the recommended daily amount for their age) over a year, we know we have a serious health problem."

The Green's $20 million Nutrition Fund will fund initiatives that promote a healthy nutritional environment for children. These include high profile education campaigns and assistance to schools in developing healthy eating environments. The scheme will be funded by government and a small levy on soft drinks.

"We also want to develop a traffic light labelling system to help children identify healthy and unhealthy food - green for healthy, orange for 'don't eat too much' and red for high sugar-high fat foods. And we want to change the rules so that only healthy food and drink can be sold in schools. We want nutrition education taught in all schools, no advertising of unhealthy foods on television, and the government to report annually on what it is doing to create an environment that encourages healthy eating

The Greens policy would place a much greater focus on nutrition within primary healthcare and would prohibit the funding of health services by food companies that sell unhealthy high fat, high sugar food.

"Ultimately the only way to reduce the burden on taxpayers is to attack the main causes of ill health such as poor diet. This is what our food policy seeks to do," Ms Kedgley said.


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