Radio New Zealand News 8 November 2015
The party has pledged to force food manufacturers to reduce
the amount of sugar added to processed foods if it leads the
next government, but deputy leader and health spokesperson Annette
King ruled out introducing a tax on sugary drinks.
"It's a jolly sight easier to enforce a reduction of sugar in
processed food than it is to try and tax some of the sugar," Ms
Fight The Obesity Epidemic
spokesperson Robyn Toomath said while the party's obesity plan was
better than the government's policies, it was "disappointing"
Labour had ruled out introducing a sugar tax on fizzy drinks.
"It's the first, the easiest, the most obvious and the least
controversial thing that they could do in regard to sugar," she
Dr Toomath, an Auckland Hospital endocrinologist, said Labour's
policy to make food producers reduce the sugar content in processed
food was not new.
"The Labour party first suggested this nine years ago. Just
before they lost the election to National they had a revised Public
Health Act, which had in it a clause which said that voluntary
codes would be agreed with industry and if after two years the
agreement had not been kept then the director-general of health
would have a mandate to regulate," she said.
University of Auckland professor of population nutrition and
global health Boyd Swinburn said while he was pleased Labour was
taking childhood obesity seriously, it was disappointing there was
no mention of a sugar tax.
He said while there was strong evidence these types of taxes
worked, it took guts to implement.
"One day we will get politicians brave enough to take on the
food industry and institute a tax on sugary drinks.
"I'm just in California at the moment and I've just heard a
whole lot of presentations on the impact of taxes on sugary drinks
in Mexico and Berkeley and there is no doubt they have a clear
impact," he said.
Mr Swinburn said overall Labour's obesity plan was a step in the
right direction, as it was more than the current government was
doing in this area, but he was waiting to see more detail on how it
The Food and Grocery Council, which represented food
manufacturers, said it would not comment on Labour's policy until
it had more detail.
"The industry is already doing a lot of work to reduce sugar and
portion sizes," said spokesperson Brent Webling.
He said there were 600 products available with the 'Health Star
Rating' system, which was a voluntary front of package labelling
system designed to help consumers make health choices.
Ms King supported the introduction of front of package labels
which gave sugar content measured in teaspoons, rather than grams,
which she said was more easily understood by the public.