Northland DHB's push to put sugary treats in plain packaging

There's a push for lollies, chocolate and other sugary items to be sold in plain packaging.

The Northland District Health Board is leading the charge as part of the DHB's push to help consumers make healthy eating choices and combat New Zealand's high obesity rates.

It's a decision being applauded by anti-obesity experts who want the rest of New Zealand to follow.

They stand out in the supermarket aisles, enticing consumers with their playful packaging. But their multi-coloured marketing makes anti-sugar advocates see red.

"We need to take away these weapons that the food industry has to make us sick and drive us down the road to diabetes, rotten teeth and heart attacks," says public health researcher Dr Simon Thornley.

Northland District Health Board wants to reduce the appeal of junk food and is recommending these kinds of foods to be wrapped in plain packaging.

It's part of their response to New Zealand's shameful obesity rates, the third-highest amongst OECD countries.

In Northland, there are higher than the national average - with 37 percent of kids either overweight or obese.

"The science is clear that sugar is a big problem, so this is great, this is the leadership that we need in this country,"  Dr Thornley says.

If adopted, sugar could follow tobacco - cigarette packets haven't been allowed to be sold in branded packaging since March 2018.

"We can do the same for sugar, sugary food, sugary drink," Dr Thornley says.

But while re-branding is a step in the right direction, some say it doesn't go far enough.

"A sugar tax is the number one thing that we should be doing in this country. It's worked in the UK - even before the tax came in, tonnes of sugar came out of the food supply," Dr Thornley says.

Newshub hit the playground for a simple test on our smallest consumers. Some families weren't convinced it wouldn't work on our kids.

"They're still going to want them regardless of what sort of packaging they're in I think," one mum told Newsuhb.

The Government recently challenged the food industry to limit marketing of junk food, but it will take more than that to break our love of the sweet stuff and campaigners think changing the wrapping is a good place to start. 

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