Tuckshop free-for-all invites obesity, say Greens

By Martin Johnston

Many state programmes to reduce obesity are at risk now the new Government has started to impose its food agenda, says Greens health spokeswoman Sue Kedgley.

Education Minister Anne Tolley this week revoked the previous Government's regulation requiring that when state or integrated schools sold food they offered only healthy options.

The Greens and public-health campaigners have deplored the National minister's move, saying it will bring unhealthy foods like chips back into school tuckshops, adding to New Zealand's problems with obesity and type 2 diabetes.

School-principal organisations, however, despite objecting to the

regulation when it was introduced, said it had sped up moves to make school food healthier. Tuckshops were unlikely to give up their new way, even though the old menus were cheaper.

The Quality Public Education Coalition's chairman, John Minto, said yesterday Mrs Tolley's move was a step back and there had been no significant pressure for it.

He noted that fast-food shops were most heavily concentrated in low-income communities and said: "Tolley has made a Remuera decision for an Otara problem."

He called for GST to be scrapped on fruit and vegetables, a new tax on fast foods, and a ban on fast-food and fizzy-drink ads on TV before 8.30pm.

Ms Kedgley, who negotiated healthy-food programmes like the successful fruit-in-schools scheme and the $3 million schools nutrition fund with the previous, Labour-led Government, said they were now all threatened.

National told Parliament after the obesity inquiry: "A successful long-term response will provide people with the education, skills and desire to make these healthy dietary and lifestyle choices. Interventions that eliminate choice and rely on control will not achieve the required attitudinal changes. Action must be targeted at those identified as being at risk ..."

National has also promised to kill clauses in Labour's Public Health Bill that would have allowed the Health Ministry to control the composition, availability and advertising of foods.

"The Government will not be running a nanny-state agenda," Health Minister Tony Ryall declared yesterday. "We know that good information and awareness will support parental and consumer choice. National has indicated there will be a greater emphasis on the physical activity side of the obesity issue."

Plans on this were being developed.

His spokeswoman said the ministry's Healthy Eating-Healthy Action programmes and fruit-in-schools would be scrutinised by the Ryall-appointed group studying the quality of health spending.

"That doesn't necessarily mean they are all in peril."

- NZ Herald

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