NZ Aims To Get Fizzy Drinks Out of Schools
New Zealand should aim to get fizzy drinks out of schools faster than has been planned in the United States, Health Minister Pete Hodgson and Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley said today.
Under a deal brokered by former US President Bill Clinton, major soft drink manufacturers including Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co, will pull their sugary sodas from American schools and replace them with other products including water, low-fat milk and unsweetened fruit juice.
"This is a remarkable turn of events," Pete Hodgson said. "The epidemic of childhood obesity is the greatest public health challenge facing the western world.
"The decision shows that soft drink manufacturers recognise that the obesity epidemic brings them new responsibilities, both to the public and their shareholders. The Food Industry Group has been established to address issues like this and has a strong relationship with the government.
"The goal in the US is to have fizzy drinks out of 75 per cent of schools by 2008/09 and all schools by 2009/10. New Zealand should be aiming to get there faster than the Americans.
"I have been working with my colleagues, Steve Maharey, Trevor Mallard and Nanaia Mahuta on a government-wide strategy to address issues of obesity, fitness and lifestyle, which will include schools. I look forward to addressing this issue in the context of this whole of government strategy."
Sue Kedgley said the health benefits of removing fizzy drinks were unquestioned, as the regular consumption of soft drinks contributes to obesity and other diseases.
"The consumption of fizzy drinks causes tremendous harm to our children and our adolescents, it rots teeth, adds to our escalating obesity rates, which in turn leaves our society with a costly legacy of diabetes and other obesity-related diseases," Sue Kedgley said.
She said that while she applauded the decision to replace fizzy drinks with milk and water, she did not favour replacing sugary drinks with diet soft drinks, as these caused dental decay and served to keep kids hooked on sweet drinks.
Pete Hodgson announced this week that work to combat obesity would be one of his top priorities for the upcoming financial year.