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Mallard: Speech to launch of nutrition report

22 September 2006 Speech Notes

Healthy New Zealand Diet report

Speech to launch of nutrition report, Banquet Hall, Parliament

Thank you to the New Zealand Beef and Lamb Marketing Bureau for inviting me today, and I must say that the refurbished Banquet Hall at Parliament is an ideal venue for an event that celebrates healthy diet.

It is a real pleasure to be here today to launch the report --- The Nutritional Importance of Foods of Animal Origin in a Healthy New Zealand Diet --- and also to welcome back to our shores British Nutrition Foundation director-general Professor Robert Pickard, who will be speaking shortly on the topic --- man cannot live by bread alone: diet, diversity and wellbeing.

I am here representing my colleague, Food Safety Minister Annette King. Annette is overseas, and cannot be here, but sends her best wishes, and I think it is quite appropriate for at least one reason that she asked me to take her place.

One of my portfolios is Minister for the Rugby World Cup, being held in New Zealand in 2011, and if I was to make a minor amendment to the title of Professor Pickard’s speech, borrowing from Colin "Pinetree" Meads it would be: All Blacks cannot live by pasta alone: the Italians have never won the Rugby World Cup.

Seriously, professional rugby players are as well aware as anyone, if not more so, of the importance of a healthy diet.

It is fundamental to performing at the highest level, and the food regime is as important for professional rugby teams as any other aspect of training to reach peak fitness.

Of course, the report we are launching today is not about a food regime as such, but it is all about the balance New Zealanders need in their diet to improve and maintain their health.

This report in particular outlines the role foods of animal origin play in a healthy diet, focusing on the nutritional aspects of these foods, and acknowledging that food fulfils more than just our dietary needs.

It is an unprecedented nutrition education initiative, written by qualified nutritionists and dieticians within the meat, fish, dairy and egg industries, and it is an appropriate time to acknowledge and thank personally all those involved in writing and funding it.

It almost sounds like an Oscar or World Cup Rugby-winning acceptance speech, but there has genuinely been a tremendously wide input into the report from organisations like the Deer Industry of New Zealand, Eggs Incorporated, Fonterra, New Zealand Beef and Lamb, New Zealand Pork, the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council and the Poultry Industry Association.

The contributions have been overseen by a scientific expert review committee, made up of Jeni Pearce, Jenny Reid, Clare Wall, Carol Wham and Laurence Eyres, while the New Zealand Dietetic Association has provided professional support and the Ministry of Health policy guidance.

Recognising the importance of a diverse and balanced diet, the qualified nutritionists and dieticians from all the organisations I have listed have produced a scientifically-referenced, peer reviewed document that adds value to the Government’s public health goals, none more so than the Ministry of Health’s Healthy Eating, Healthy Action strategy.

It's also a nice tie-in with Mission-On - the initiative the Prime Minister announced yesterday aimed at improving nutrition, and lifting the levels of physical activity in our young people in particular, to combat obesity.

We have always been known as a country of fit, active people and the Labour-led government believes this is a legacy worth protecting. An epidemic of obesity threatens to undo the significant progress made in improving our health and quality of life.

The Mission-On package includes:

• Improving nutrition in schools and early childhood education services
• School-based health promotion events
• A new 'lifestyle ambassadors' campaign featuring high-profile New Zealanders
• Encouraging the advertising industry to take measures to decrease children's exposure to the advertising of less healthy foods
• The creation of youth-focused websites to promote healthy eating and physical activity
• Sponsorship of television and radio programmes that promote healthy choices
• A 'screen-free' campaign to encourage less time in front of television and computers
• Government departments leading by example in the promotion of healthy workplaces
• An expansion of the 'Green Prescription' programme
• The introduction of Health Impact Assessments for new government policy and legislation.

These initiatives aim to give New Zealand's children, young people and families the tools to become healthier, so they can make healthy choices and lead active and successful lives.

As well as the scientific report itself, educational booklets have also been produced for both health professionals and consumers. These come with a range of healthy recipes that should ensure the important messages of the work are accessible to everyone.

The report has been put together in response to a relatively recent trend of promoting one diet over another, and represents the first time that all the animal food industries have come together to work on such a scientifically-based public health initiative.

It goes without saying that food is an essential part of many of our social and cultural activities. We rarely gather together without some form of food and drink being involved – and this afternoon is no exception!

The diverse range of foods available in New Zealand means that we are spoilt for choice.

Foods of animal origin, such as beef, lamb, pork, venison, dairy, eggs, poultry and seafood, have always been central to Kiwi eating patterns, and fall into two of the food groups recommended for a healthy, balanced diet.

There are a number of interesting facts in the report that you can pass on to your family and friends, or that I can pass on to my Cabinet colleagues over the post-Cabinet lunch, concerning physical factors that suggest humans were designed to eat a mixed, omnivore diet.

For example, our teeth include incisors for eating meat, as well as molars for grinding plants, and as well our digestive system contains a mixture of bacteria and enzymes all designed to digest a wide range of animal and plant foods alike.

It makes sense to take full advantage of and enjoy the multitude of foods available to us in New Zealand to ensure we remain fit and healthy.

It is also an excellent way to pass on important messages to our children about the value of adopting healthy eating patterns.

I note that the report also debunks some common misconceptions that have grown up over the years around food, such as avoiding milk and other dairy products if you are lactose intolerant, and the need to avoid red meat if you’re trying to lose weight.

It is all very well for me, as a biking-obsessed MP, to talk about the importance of foods of animal origin, but one advantage of this report, aside from its nutritional information, is that it actually comes with a ready-made and underlying gravitas that is hard to deny.

The industries involved employ qualified nutrition staff with scientific credibility. The nutrition experts have relayed the benefits and qualities of their products in a way the public can readily understand.

The industries want to ensure that the right nutritional messages find their way into the New Zealand psyche, and to lay to rest dietary myths and misconceptions that have been associated with their products in the past.

Their success in promoting these messages will result in Kiwis more fully appreciating and taking advantage of New Zealand’s safe and healthy food supply.

And that is an appropriate point at which to formally welcome Professor Robert Pickard back to New Zealand, following his highly successful lecture tour here in 2002, when his theme was: Man (and presumably woman) is an omnivore.

Professor Pickard, as well as being Director-General of the British Nutrition Foundation, is emeritus Professor of Neurobiology at the University of Cardiff, a Fellow of the Institute of Biology and the Royal Society of Medicine, a registered nutritionist, and an Honorary Associate of the British Dietetic Association.

It is indeed a privilege for us to hear from such an eminent nutrition authority and his presence here gives considerable added scientific mana to the launch of this report today.

His topic --- man cannot live by bread alone: diet, diversity and wellbeing --- challenges us to consider the detrimental effects of eliminating food groups from our diet, and underlines the importance of optimising diet, activity and health in the modern environments we have created for ourselves.

I am looking forward to listening to the professor, and so, I am sure, is everyone else here today. Thank you again for inviting me to this important launch.


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