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Ministry Welcomes Timely New Evidence On Nutrition

Ministry Welcomes Timely New Evidence On Nutrition

The Ministry of Health is welcoming two valuable new studies in the New Zealand Medical Journal about the major health threat of obesity.

One study reports an association between school canteen use and students eating more high-sugar and high-fat foods. It also found students using canteens were less likely to consume some healthier foods, such as fruits and vegetables, than non-users.

"We welcome new evidence on this major area of public health concern and are pleased the study supports the Ministry's focus on the food and drink on offer in New Zealand schools," said Healthy Eating Healthy Action (HEHA) Programme Manager Cynthia Maling.

The study provides scientific evidence for "school policies, provision of free fruit, promotion of healthy snacks, price reductions on healthy foods, and decreased availability of unhealthy foods”.

New Zealand is making progress in these areas through the fruit in schools programme, which has been extended to all low-decile schools nationwide, and the world-first guidelines phasing out “full sugar”beverages from New Zealand schools by 2009.

"We agree with the journal's editors that much more needs to be done in homes and schools to prevent childhood obesity and are currently working with the Ministry of Education, and looking at other ways to further improve the food environment in schools and homes," said Ms Maling.

The Ministry of Health is currently developing the Food and Beverage Classification System, a guide to assist schools and early childhood education (ECE) services in implementing the Ministry of Education's Food and Nutrition Guidelines.

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The Food and Nutrition Guidelines detail the approach schools and ECE services should take to improve food and nutrition. The Classification System currently under development will assist schools and ECE services in putting in place the guidelines by identifying foods and beverages that are healthy and can be consumed everyday, and decreasing consumption of other products that are high in sugar, fat or salt.

The Ministry of Health is currently developing the system.

The Government is also waiting for the recommendations from the Health Select Committee Inquiry into obesity, due later this year, and will be responding to them.

The Ministry also welcomes the first New Zealand study to compare the costs of a regular food basket with a relatively “healthier” food basket.

"It's great that the study shows healthier alternatives are readily available and cost the same or only a little more than less healthy food. We encourage all shoppers to chose foods that are lower in sugar, salt and fat."

The Ministry of Health has commissioned the Health Sponsorship Council (HSC) to develop and deliver a social marketing programme to improve nutrition and promote healthy weight, as part of the HEHA strategy.

The programme is currently under development and will launch in Autumn 2007, beginning with a mass media campaign, delivered by TV, radio and print media.

ENDS

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