Media watch

New Zealand media headlines - February 2017

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

Media discussions centred on sugary drinks this month, across three key themes:

1. Calls for a sugary drink icon

In December the NZ Dental Association (NZDA) released a consensus statement, listing seven key actions needed to reduce harm caused by sugary drink consumption. The first was to introduce an icon on drinks indicating, in teaspoons, the amount of sugar in each drink. Discussion on this action increased this month, after NZDA released a press statement, explaining a sugary drinks icon could help to reduce confusion. Rob Beaglehole, spokesperson for the association said a sugary drink teaspoon icon is much simpler than ‘per 100ml’ or ‘per serve’ information, as it makes it easier to compare the quantity of sugar between drinks. He suggests that this action, within the broad range of interventions mentioned in the consensus statement, would benefit childhood obesity levels, type two diabetes and dental health.

2. Local dairy owners support water only initiative

Two south Taranaki dairy owners made history this month by choosing not to sell sugar sweetened beverages to children on their way to school. The initiative is part of the Taranaki Public Health Unit’s (PHU) ‘Tap into Water’ project to help combat childhood obesity, tooth decay and other health issues. The PHU has been working with local schools to support them to become water only and have started visiting South Taranaki retailers, including dairies, petrol stations and supermarkets to provide information on how they can help with reducing the amount of sugar a child has each day.  The initative has been commended by the NZ Dental Association.

3. New working papers released on sugar tax

The release of two new working papers by the NZ Treasury has reignited discussion around implementing a sugar tax in New Zealand. The paper ‘Implications of a Sugar Tax in New Zealand: Incidence and Effectiveness’ revealed findings consistent with international evidence that a sugar tax would be regressive at a population level. This sparked a counter argument, with discussions around why sugary beverage consumption is already helping to keep families poor, by reducing life opportunities associated with obesity. The Green Party and think tank The NZ Initiative also weighed in on the subject, within a two part series presenting both sides of the current sugar tax debate. Green Party’s health spokesperson Julie Anne Genter supports a tax, describes food industry influence over the current environment and urges government leadership, while NZ Initiative Policy Analyst, Jenesa Jeram sights the current evidence and economic principles to describe why she is doubtful that a sugar tax will improve obesity.

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