New Zealand's biggest city - Auckland - is toying with the idea of dropping junk food advertising from public property – a move that could set a dangerous national precedent for food manufacturers.
The process, which is in its elementary stage, is being spearheaded by the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB), which has also made public its concerns of what it calls the obesity epidemic in the recent past.
Noting that the 35% of Year 9 students in the district are overweight and another 35% obese, the board said it wants to focus on the benefits of better nutrition.
It wants a policy that would create a partnership with Auckland Council to improve local food environments and minimise marketing of unhealthy food while targeting schools through existing health programmes.
Stop that sponsor
The Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) wants junk food advertising dropped from public property, including bus shelters, and also the junk food and soft drink sponsorship of public events.
Dr Julia Peters, clinical director at ARPHS, said that changes in food production and marketing, together with more sedentary lifestyles, is resulting in New Zealanders becoming increasingly overweight and obese.
“This is a cause of significant health inequalities and is a particular concern amongst children,” she said, noting that the ARPHS supported the adoption of healthy food policies in its submission to the Draft Auckland Plan in late 2011.
“Recommendations included that Council seriously considers controlling access to, and the number of, fast food outlets in locations close to schools, parks and low socioeconomic areas.”
Not happening, says food body chief
Katherine Rich, chief executive of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council (NZFGC) told FoodNavigator-Asia the proposal was unlikely to go anywhere.
She said a ban on food company sponsorship would have a detrimental impact on New Zealand sport and cultural events.
“New Zealand food companies such as Sanitarium fund triathlons and other children’s events. Other companies support children’s rugby, soccer and netball. Nestlé earlier this year launched a physical education programme for New Zealand schools. All these sorts of sponsorships would cease.”
New Zealand already has a well-supported advertising code for the marketing of food products, Rich said, which asks that advertising of food be conducted in a manner that is socially responsible and does not undermine food and nutrition policies.