Labour reveals plan to tackle obesity

Labour's health spokeswoman Annette King
Labour's health spokeswoman Annette King

By Sarah Robson

Labour wants the food industry to reduce how much sugar goes into processed food in an attempt to reduce childhood obesity.

New Zealand has the third-highest adult obesity rate in the OECD and Labour's health spokeswoman, Annette King, has unveiled details about how her party will tackle the problem if it gets into government.

In her speech to the annual conference in Palmerston North today, Ms King said Labour would work with the food industry to reduce the amount of sugar in processed food.

It would be voluntary at first, but would eventually move to being a requirement.

Ms King said this approach was easier than trying to bring in a sugar tax.

She envisaged the policy would apply to foods such as cereals, peanut butter, yoghurt and tomato sauce that did not have sugar added to them in the past.

"It's the accumulative effect in a day of the sugar that you eat - by the end of the day the amount that you eat is many, many teaspoons," she told reporters.

But Ms King said treat foods such as lollies, chocolate and ice-cream would not be caught out by the requirements.

"We are not the anti-treat police," she said.

Labour also wants to bring in an easier-to-understand food labelling system, which would show how many teaspoons of sugar or salt were in a food product.

"I agree with Jamie Oliver that members of the public would be more conscious about what they were eating if they knew the number of teaspoons of sugar or salt that is in their food," she said.

Labour also wants to put in place a childhood obesity reduction target and roll out a fitness and exercise programme in schools nationally.

Labour's obesity framework, which is still being developed, will also include policy around things such as advertising unhealthy food to children and school food requirements.

The Government last month announced its own package to tackle childhood obesity, which Ms King labelled "feeble".