Once again we're at the business end of an election campaign with hardly a word spoken about food, health or obesity.

You could argue there has been a whole lot of other more important stuff to talk about, like the housing crisis, the economy or child poverty.

Which is true.

But don't forget food, health and obesity are all connected with housing, the economy and poverty.


For example, obesity is directly linked to deprivation.

Children living in the most deprived areas are five times as likely to be obese as children living in the least deprived areas, according to the Ministry of Health.

Obesity also has a direct link with our economy.

The cost of treating obesity and related diseases such as diabetes is $1 billion a year. The lost productivity from these diseases has been conservatively estimated at $200 million a year. These costs will affect all of us.

Say we do care about these issues. What will the different political parties do to address them? I've had a look and tried to pick out some of the most interesting bits from the various policies.

There's not a lot to look at, to be honest. Food, nutrition and healthy eating do not loom large in policy statements.

The Greens stand out for looking at a couple of food labelling issues no one else addresses: they want mandatory country-of-origin labelling, and firmer rules around "free range" claims.

These things both appear to be popular with consumers.

Also popular is the removal of GST from fresh fruit, vegetables and milk.

The Maori Party is the only one advocating for this. It also proposes a new labelling convention: teaspoons of sugar on packaging.

Labour also has a crack at labelling, although in a vaguer way.

"We'll implement clear front-of-package labelling that is easy for everyone to understand," it says.

Labour talks about childhood obesity, promising to do a couple of things long recommended by experts: introduce a target for childhood obesity reduction and to develop policies around advertising unhealthy food to children and healthy food in schools.

Labour also wants to roll out the Project Energize programme (which has proved to be effective) nationally.

Labour is not, however, in support of another expert recommendation: a tax on sugary drinks. A tax is supported by the Maori, Top and Green parties.

Labour will only go as far as saying it will "provide a clear time-frame for industry to reduce added sugar content in all processed food". That sounds pretty similar to the current industry-led approach.

National doesn't appear to offer any new initiatives, but highlights existing programmes such as Fruit in Schools. It also plans to continue the existing "world-leading plan" to address childhood obesity.

It seems no party really has this issue nailed, at least in any of their published policies.

So whoever wins next week, we'll have to keep using our power as consumers if we want meaningful change.

• Niki Bezzant is editor-at-large for Healthy Food Guide.