Supermarket chain Foodstuffs says the food industry is doing enough to combat obesity and doesn't need the Government stepping in with more regulations.
A parliamentary select committee is considering measures to combat obesity as part of a sweeping review of public health legislation.
The Public Health Bill could lead to supermarkets being told where to place unhealthy food, as well as restrictions on the television advertising of junk food to children.
Foodstuffs New Zealand executive manager Melissa Hodd said yesterday that the company was opposed to being told by the Government where to locate products in their stores.
"We believe the industry is able to work with the Government on voluntary initiatives to support their objectives around healthy eating and we are more than willing to do that.
"We think that regulatory steps would be unnecessary and would be unwelcome in terms of the potential to constrain how we run our business."
She said the Government's intentions were well-meaning, but a regulatory approach was not the best solution.
"At the end of the day we think people should be able to make their own choices ... they shouldn't be told by the Government what they should buy or what they should eat."
She said Foodstuffs, which operates New World, Pak'N Save and Four Square, was involved in a number of initiatives to tackle obesity.
These included working with the Manukau District Health Board to promote healthier diets and increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables. Progressive Enterprises, who own Foodtown, Woolworths and Countdown, had no comment to make.
Consumer NZ said it supported tighter regulation around the advertising of junk food to children. "We have done studies that show there's a lot of sophisticated marketing especially around [junk food] products for children. The positioning of the products on shelves, at kids' eye-level, is an issue. At the end of the day we do have an obesity problem," said research manager Belinda Allan.
She said it was not appropriate for fast-food organisations to sponsor sports teams because it sent a mixed message. A spokeswoman for McDonald's said it had put in a submission, but wouldn't go into detail.
"In general we support self-regulation," she said.
The Food Industry Group said issues surrounding food and eating were complex. "There are some clauses in the Public Health Bill which are concerning because they are too wide open and they could have down-sides that we don't know about," said executive director Vicki Hamilton.
Green Party MP Sue Kedgley yesterday took a swipe at the advertising industry, saying it should stop its exaggerated attacks on the Public Health Bill and engage in serious debate over a public health issue that had huge implications for New Zealand and the sustainability of the health system.
"Instead of acting like King Canute trying to stem the turning tide, this industry should be using its considerable influence and power to promote healthy foods and healthy eating habits to our children.
"Even those with vested interests in profits and advertising revenue from unhealthy food should set those prejudices aside and engage in what is a truly groundbreaking and critical debate over our nation's health."
She said it would be grossly irresponsible for parliament to fail to include provision for regulations that would reduce the risk of diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.