Media watch

New Zealand media headlines - November 2017

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

1. Industry responds to new NZ Government warning to cut down on sugar and salt in products

The newly appointed New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister, David Clark recently warned food industry and manufacturers to cut down on sugar and salt in food and beverage products, saying that “all options were on the table” including a sugary drinks tax.

Katherine Rich, NZ Food and Grocery Council CEO, says their members are guided by consumers’ choices and that many are already reformulating existing products and developing new ones to reflect the desire for healthier foods. The number one consumer trend over the past five years has been a move to choose foods and drinks that are lower in salt, fat or sugar, or are in a ‘better for you’ category. There are currently more low- or no-sugar products on shelves than ever before and reformulation has been undertaken across a range of areas including sugar and salt.

2. Ronald McDonald House Charities proposals shunned by public health officials

In late October, Ronald McDonald House Charities NZ, a provider of accommodation and other services for families with children in hospitals, presented a proposal to open a new Ronald McDonald House for Middlemore Hospital in South Auckland. This was reportedly rejected by Middlemore Hospital on the advice public health doctors, due to the association with fast food.

There has been a significant amount of criticism in the media towards the decisions, with many citing the services are vital for keeping families together during a difficult time. Otago Regional Councillor Michael Laws labelled the moved as inhumane and that “if they just listened to people who have used the service and consulted them before they made this conclusion, then I think they would have come to a different decision”.

Since this was initially reported, the District Health Board which oversees responsibility for Middlemore Hospital, has requested the opportunity to reconsider the offer by Ronald McDonald House Charities.

3. Consumer NZ and the New Zealand Dental Association have asked the government to back new rules for the labelling of 'added sugar' in food and drinks.

Consumer NZ Chief Executive Sue Chetwin believes that under current food labelling regulations, consumers are finding it difficult to understand how much sugar is in their food and are calling on Damien O’Connor, the Minister of Food Safety to support added sugar labelling. The NZ Dental Association is also calling for an icon on drinks indicating, in teaspoons, the amount of sugar in each drink.

These calls for changes to the labelling of added sugar were made ahead of the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation, on 24 November 2017. During the meeting, Ministers agreed that current information on food labels about sugar does not provide adequate context to enable consumers to make informed choices. Ministers agreed to continue examining options to address this issue.

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