Media watch

New Zealand media headlines - May 2017

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

Media discussions centered on sugary drinks this month, across three key themes;

1. Guidelines updated for school-aged young people (5-17 years)

The Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Sport New Zealand have released updated guidelines for school-aged young people (5-17 years) in support of the government Childhood Obesity Plan that was released in October 2015: the Sit Less, Move More, Sleep Well – Physical Activity Guidelines for Children and Young People. The previous guidelines were published a decade ago and advances in research have been reflected in the updated guidelines. It is now known, for example, that good-quality sleep leads to better emotional development and academic achievement in school children.

A summary of the guideline updates is as follows:

  • No more than two hours of screen time a day
  • 5-13 year olds need 9 – 11 hours of sleep a night, 14 - 17 year olds need 8-10 hours, with consistent bed and wake-up times
  • At least one hour a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity including activities that strengthen bones and muscles
  • Participating in several hours of light physical activity to break up sitting time

Parents are also encouraged to see how their children compare, and for those not meeting the guidelines it is recommended children make a ‘progressive adjustment’ towards them

2. Dental Association calls for ‘water-only’ policy in schools

Recent research shows positive results from a South Auckland school’s ‘water only’ policy, which was implemented 10 years ago. This has led The New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) to recommend all school and early learning services adopt a ‘water-only’ policy. Decile 1 Yendarra School in Otara adopted a 'water only' policy for drinks in 2007, requesting parents to supply only water and milk. Results show the average number of cavities has dropped, while the number of extractions due to decay have nearly halved.

A local campaign “Rethink your drink” in Southland Schools (in collaboration with Healthy Families Invercargill) ran throughout May. This campaign encouraged water or plain milk over sugary drinks and was aimed at improving child obesity and oral hygiene. It is expected Rethink Your Drink leaders will continue to support schools to adopt water-only policies and encourage school canteens to provide healthy options.

3. The Ministry of Primary Industries requires New Zealand sports drink manufacturer to add sugar to their product to ensure it is compatible with current food standards

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has given SOS Hydration, a powdered drink that mixes with water, until the end of August to add five times as much sugar to its formula to comply with the Australian and New Zealand Food Standards Code and specifically Food standard 2.6.2. SOS Hydration has responded saying they meet criteria set out by the World Health Organization Oral Rehydration Solution Guidelines.

The call for this manufacturer to increase its sugar has sparked much debate across health professionals, sports players, health agencies and government departments. Tom Mayo (co-founder of SOS Hydration) has argued that the FSANZ standards are ‘out of date and there are no similar requirements under WHO and US and European Union food standards’ and that ‘the World Health Organisation Oral Rehydration Standards acknowledge high levels of sugar are no longer needed for hydration’.

On the other hand, Roger Cook (Food Risk Assessment Manager, MPI) reports the World Health Organisation Oral Rehydration Solution guidelines do not have the same purpose as electrolyte drinks (under which a hydrating sports drink would qualify) but are instead designed to ‘rehydrate seriously ill patients, who would suffer diarrhoea if they drank too much sugar’. He maintains that ‘the science (for sport rehydration drinks) very clearly says that you need to have that high sugar content to actively encourage the transfer of water from the gut across the bloodstream’. Watch this space for more updates.


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