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Oral health the issue? Let's talk fluoridation

Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister of Health

12 December 2006 Media Statement

Oral health the issue? Let's talk fluoridation

New Zealanders voicing genuinely held concerns about diet drinks and tooth decay should join the Labour-led government's call for the expansion of fluoridated water supplies, Health Minister Pete Hodgson said today.

Yesterday's announcement of a voluntary agreement between the government and Coca Cola and Frucor to remove full sugar fizzy and energy drinks from schools has been met with concern that tooth-decay promoting diet drinks will remain in schools.

"The world-leading agreement announced yesterday will remove over 100 tonnes of sugar from the diets of New Zealand school children," Pete Hodgson said. "That's a small, but significant step forward in the fight against obesity.

"Some people have suggested that the agreement was a missed opportunity to remove diet drinks which have been linked to tooth decay. Unfortunately, some of these critics are the same people who have opposed fluoridation of water supplies, which would have a much greater impact on improving child oral health than the banning of diet soft drinks from school tuck shops and vending machines.

"Already, fluoridation prevents up to a quarter million decayed or missing teeth every year, but too many of our communities are still without fluoridated water supplies. Children living in these communities are at the bottom of our oral health statistics.

"Work to improve child nutrition has gained considerable momentum this year and I would welcome the same momentum around oral health.

"There is no doubt that the most important step we could take towards protecting the teeth of our children would be an urgent expansion of fluoridated water supplies. The Ministry of Health will pay for the initial implementation costs for any locality that wants to fluoridate its water supplies."

ENDS

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