Food in school canteens - FGC media response
3 September 2014
The Christchurch Press posed questions to FGC on the issue of food in school canteens. It did not publish these comments or a story about food in school canteens.
Does the FGC acknowledge that obesity is a significant health issue in New Zealand?
Yes, and we have said so in articles written for industry magazines and mainstream media.
Does the FGC acknowledge that easy availability and low cost of highly calorific food is a strong disincentive for people (especially children) to pursue a healthy balanced diet?
It would be better if there were more healthy options available in school canteens to increase the incentive for children to choose them, but that is a matter for schools. FGC favours more healthy food in canteens alongside education about foods that may be deemed less healthy and what quantities they should be consumed in.
What is the FGCs position on food available in school canteens?
FGC supports healthy food choices in school canteens. This is why over many years we have worked with the Heart Foundation's Food & Beverage Classification System, now called Fuelled4Life. The programme provides support to school canteens to help them choose healthier foods for their canteens. We encourage our member companies to participate, and many do. Some have reformulated their products to meet the strict guidelines. It would be great if this initiative was used by all schools. There is also an agreement where Coca-Cola and Frucor voluntarily stopped selling fizzy drink to schools to take that option away from school children. FGC actively supports this agreement.
If there was a return to more regulated school canteens - in terms of food available, how would the FGC respond to this?
This is a matter for government. In the meantime our members are already working with programmes such as Fuelled4Life to help schools provide healthier choices, and others that teach a mixture of healthy eating and exercise to school pupils. Obviously it would be great if more schools participated in this.
What is FGCs position on tackling obesity? What evidence is this based on?
FGC acknowledges that more must be done to tackle obesity. But it must be done in a measured way that works, not in ways that don’t work or have unintended consequences. For example, we believe that taxes on sugar will not work because they will either put up the price of all food, to the detriment of low-income people who are already struggling to pay their weekly shopping bill, or they will drive consumers to lower-priced alternative home brands, meaning there will be little or no reduction in consumption. Instead we favour a mix of initiatives, such as reformulating food to reduce sugar and fat, promoting exercise, and promoting education to enable people to make informed choices about what they buy and how much of it they should have.
FGC and its member companies are strongly supportive of encouraging healthy lifestyles and reducing harm in the community. That’s why many companies have launched initiatives or joined others or non-government organisations such as the Heart Foundation. Of particular note are school programmes where companies provide breakfasts for pupils starting the day hungry. Other programmes offer courses and information on how to prepare healthy meals or to just make healthier food choices. FGC supports and encourages member companies in their considerable efforts to reformulate a wide range of popular products to remove more sugar, fat, and salt from food. These companies have removed, and continue to remove, many hundreds of tonnes of salt, fat, and sugar from a wide range of products each year.