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Health Committee weakens obesity provisions

FOE (Fight the Obesity Epidemic)

Media Release, 26 June 2008

Health Committee weakens obesity provisions in Public Health Bill

"The Health Select Committee has watered down the ability of future governments to make regulations to reduce obesity", says Dr Robyn Toomath, spokesperson for FOE (Fight the Obesity Epidemic).

In reporting back to Parliament today, the Committee recommends that the Bill includes the power to make regulations to protect New Zealanders from risk factors for non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes.

"While this regulation-making power is a great step forward, it is unduly restrictive in that it can only be exercised two or more years after the Director-General of Health has issued codes or guidelines. It doesn't cater for the case where industry self-regulation fails."

"The first draft of the Bill did not have this restriction", she said.

Dr Toomath gave as an example the voluntary restrictions adopted by some of the TV channels on advertising junk food to children. "These restrictions don't apply in the early evening when the most popular programmes for children are aired. But the government couldn't regulate to extend the restrictions to later in the evening under the Health Committee's recommendation because the Director-General hasn't issued a code about this."

"The process of the Director-General having to issue a code in such cases before regulatory action could be taken would add at least three years to the period in which children are exposed to TV advertising injurious to their health."

"I believe this needs to be fixed before the Bill is passed. The government should be able to regulate in cases where self-regulation by industry failed, as well as cases of failure to meet codes issued by the Director-General", she said.

ENDS

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