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Meeting in Christchurch produces poor outcome

The New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) says the recent meeting in Christchurch of government ministers from Australia and New Zealand agreeing to keep the Health Star Ratings system voluntary is bad news for oral health.

Health Star Ratings currently appear on only 30 percent of packaged foods, despite a draft review recommending an increase to 70 percent of eligible products by 2023.

NZDA argue Health Star Ratings should be mandatory on all packaged and processed foods, citing that consumers are often unaware that many food and drinks are “loaded” with sugars.

“Confusion reigns, and it is that confusion that industry uses to take advantage of consumers,” said NZDA sugary drinks spokesperson Dr Rob Beaglehole.

“We want to see mandatory health ratings and sugar labelling. When you have statistics such as overweight children are 30 percent more likely to have the worst grade of tooth decay, it is a grim and serious situation.

“We say that government intervention is needed. A sugary drink icon – for example a teaspoon image showing the number of teaspoons of sugar contained in food and drinks would be useful.”

NZDA says solutions are available, and call on the government to take urgent action.

“Again, this sends a message ‘it’s okay just trust the food and beverage industry’. Well, government has met with them, outcomes haven’t improved, and now, even the voluntary steps are letting the side down,” concludes Dr Beaglehole.

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