The New Zealand Food & Grocery Council welcomes the Government’s positive response to the report of Food Industry Taskforce on Addressing Factors Contributing to Obesity, released today.
Chief Executive Katherine Rich says she is encouraged Ministers David Clark and Damien O’Connor have picked up the recommendations relevant to Food & Grocery Council members, including continuing work on reformulation to reduce saturated fats, trans-fats, free sugars and salt/sodium, supporting nutrition labelling to ensure accurate, standardised and comprehensive information on nutrient contents, and encouraging greater uptake of the Health Star Rating system.
“I’m also encouraged they have acknowledged the ‘significant amount of work members of the food and beverage industry have already done to address obesity’.
The taskforce’s recommendations to the Ministers were based on feedback from contributing companies and associations last year that sought information and suggestions on practical measures they had taken or could take in the future.
The 51 recommendations delivered a package of practical measures by addressing five main areas:
- food and beverage formulation and innovation
- employee health and wellness programmes
- community and education initiatives
- food and beverage marketing
- labelling and the rollout of Health Star Ratings.
“We believe the recommendations as implemented will play a part in helping to reduce obesity,” says Mrs Rich.
“They are already at the top of Food & Grocery Council members’ priorities for healthier options and this will continue.
“The report was submitted last December and since then many Food & Grocery Council members have been getting on and working on implementing the recommendations relevant to them.
“Our members, including Nestle, Frucor-Suntory, Coca-Cola and others, have continued reformulation projects. For example, there are now more low- and no-sugar beverage options available to consumers than ever, and sales are now outstripping those of full-sugar variants. Fonterra is another example of industry leadership, reducing added sugars across their yoghurts and milk drinks.
“The Food & Grocery Council looks forward to working with the Government and other stakeholders to create healthier food environments and contribute to reducing obesity.
“We will press the Government to pick up the taskforce’s recommendation for a children’s National Nutrition Survey, because data about what New Zealand children eat is woefully out of date, the last one being conducted in 2002.
“It’s almost as bad for the Adult National Nutrition Survey, which hasn’t been updated for 11 years. Up-to-date accurate data about what foods Kiwis are eating is vital for good food and health policy.
“We also want to talk further about Recommendation 46, which calls for the Government to resource a further awareness campaign for the Health Star Rating system, to build on the campaign that ended in the middle of last year.
“We believe it’s the best system available globally. Surveys show consumer awareness is growing, with more and more people using the stars to guide their choices, and we need to keep raising consumer understanding about the scheme through health campaigns.
“As made clear in the report, the food and beverage industry is committed to continuing to work with government, non-government organisations and the community to address factors that contribute to obesity.”
The Food & Grocery Council was the secretariat for the taskforce and does not speak for non-FGC taskforce members representing supermarkets, restaurants, hospitality, advertising agencies, or fast-food providers.