Labour, Greens want tougher junk food stance
The Government won't make much headway against child obesity unless it gets tough with the junk food industry, Opposition parties say.
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman yesterday announced a comprehensive plan to tackle the problem, but the Government has ruled out putting a tax on fatty foods or fizzy drinks.
The Green Party's Kevin Hague says the junk food industry isn't going to voluntarily sell less of its products.
"We need to use smarter measures like regulations and taxes to encourage people to change their behaviour," he said.
"It's clear from this pathetic attempt that National is too scared to do something meaningful to tackle the real problem through fear of annoying the junk food companies."
Labour leader Andrew Little says the plan is a collection of half-baked policies.
"The food industry needs a rev up," he said.
"There's no reason manufacturers couldn't already have been reducing sugar and saturated fat in processed food - that shows there needs to be some very strong directives from the Government."
Labour's acting health spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says at least the Government has finally accepted child obesity is a "massive problem that is costing everyone a lot of money".
"We've got to put ideology aside – this is costing us $700 million," Ms Ardern told the Paul Henry programme this morning.
"There are a whole raft of things we need to do about the wider environment that everyone's operating in."
At the centre of Dr Coleman's plan is the target of having nearly all obese children referred to a doctor by the end of 2017.
Alongside it are public information and physical activity programmes, and Dr Coleman says he's working with the food industry on what role it can play.
Options include "appropriate marketing and advertising" as well as food labelling.
It's estimated that one in nine children are obese and a further two are overweight.
The plan is to identify them early through the free B4 School Check for four-year-olds.
More than 58,600 children were checked last year and Dr Coleman says about 1400 were referred to doctors or other health professionals.
He expects that by December 2017, 95 percent of children, or about 4000, will have been identified as obese and referred to a health professional.
NZN / 3 News