Media watch

New Zealand media headlines - December 2017

Catch up on the most topical issues in sugars and health making the headlines this month.

1.       Consumer NZ announces their 2017 Bad Taste Food Awards winners

Consumer NZ hosted their annual Bad Taste Food Awards which ultimately aims to ‘call out manufacturers on the claims they use to make their products seem like better choices’. Nominations are sought before the ‘winners’ are announced. Consumer NZ CEO, Sue Chetwin, says “many of the products nominated for this year’s awards were full of sugar, yet carried claims designed to make them appeal to health-conscious consumers, such as “no artificial sweeteners”, “natural” or “fat-free””.

A number of food industry representatives have come forward to explain how manufacturers adhere to the guidelines set by the Food Safety Standards (under FSANZ) and that there is constant work being done to reformulate recipes to better suit consumer tastes, diets and lifestyles. In response to the inclusion of a Sanitarium breakfast drink ‘Up & Go’ in this year’s awards, a Sanitarium nutritionist says, “It is important for consumers to consider what is right for them, [as] people have different nutritional needs depending on their activity level, pre- and post-exercise timing, gender and age”.

2.       Major supermarket chains in NZ are reformulating their in-house brands

Two major supermarket chains in NZ, Foodstuffs and Countdown, have been reformulating their in-house brand products over the past year to reduce the sugar, salt and fat content, particularly in their ‘junk food’ products.

A number of products, including staples like tinned spaghetti, baked beans, tortillas, and breakfast cereals have undergone recipe changes and improvements. Countdown’s spokesman James Walker says, “When reformulations are undertaken, if a big reduction is needed to improve the nutritional value of a product, the manufacturer will do this over time to allow customers taste preferences to slowly adjust to the new formulations”.

3.       Exercise NZ is called for further taxes on processed foods

Exercise NZ believes cereals and other processed foods should be taxed to help tackle New Zealand’s “appalling” levels of obesity. According to the latest OECD obesity update, New Zealand has the world’s third highest rate of obesity, behind Mexico and the United States of America. Richard Beddie, Exercise NZ CE, says “By having a tax on highly processed foods, physical activity and ‘real food’ could be subsidised”. 

The call has been met with support from University of Auckland Research Fellow Stefanie Vandevijvere who says, “Taxing heavily processed foods would be more effective than taxing sugar and the revenue could be used for public health objectives such as removing GST from fruits and vegetables”. A neighbourhood poll on the community website, Neighbourly, attracted 132 votes of which 61% were in favour of a processed food tax. 

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