Campaign puts bite on drinks

Campaign puts bite on drinks

Campaign puts bite on drinks

SUGAR is the new tobbaco, says Dr Rob Beaglehole who is calling for sugar-sweetened beverages to be banned from hospitals and local body venues and events.

The policy is already effectively in force at Tairawhiti District Health (TDH) where such drinks have not been sold for years, TDH chairman Jim Green confirmed.

Mayor Meng Foon does not support the proposal.

“I think Gisborne District Council staff and councils are mature enough to decide what they want to drink and eat,” said Mr Foon.

“Continuous education is the key.

“We have posters on our notice boards to show what should be consumed moderately and other foods in greater quantity like vegetables.

“Everything in moderation, I say, and we have plenty of water freely available too.”

Dr Beaglehole is the principal dental officer at Nelson-Marlborough District Health which, on March 1, adopted a healthy eating policy in which sugar-sweetened drinks such as soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and flavoured milk will not be sold.

He was invited to speak to community health providers at Tairawhiti District Health.

TDH board member and deputy mayor Rehette Stoltz attended Dr Beaglehole’s presentation.

“It was good to have Rehette here,” said Dr Beaglehole.

“She is a key person and Meng Foon is a big supporter on health issues.”

Mr Green said TDH had begun the process of reviewing its healthy eating policy before the “Nelson-Marlborough publicity”.

“The revised policy is likely to be approved in the next couple of weeks but it essentially just brings the paperwork into line with what was already normal operating practice,’’ said Mr Green.

Tasman District Council has rejected Dr Beaglehole’s proposal to ban all sugar-sweetened drinks from council premises and events.

Nelson District Council recorded a 5 to 5 vote over the same proposal.

Dr Beaglehole said two Nelson councillors who supported the ban had been absent.

He had been told to bring the issue back to the council after the elections.

He believed the new council was more favourably disposed towards the ban.

Councillors who were concerned about “nanny state” and individual responsibility needed to accept they were responsible for the health and wellbeing of their communities, he said.

The drinks would not be totally banned and could still be sold by retailers.

Dr Beaglehole told Tairawhiti health providers that New Zealand had the third-highest rate of sugar consumption in the OECD after Mexico and the US.

Drinks with added sugar were the leading source of sugar for New Zealand children and the leading risk factor for obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay, he said.

The decision this week by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to halve the recommended daily rate of sugar consumption from 10 percent of calorie intake to 5 percent — or by the equivalent of a 330ml bottle of Coke — was great news.

The daily rate of consumption had been halved from 12 teaspoons of sugar to six and was the first reduction in the level since 2002.

Dr Beaglehole said there was great concern over the heavily- advertised sugar-sweetened drinks that were marketed especially at children and had no nutritional value.

The biggest selling item in a supermarket was a 1.5ml bottle of Coca-Cola.

The All Blacks advertised a sports drink but often drank water out of their sponsor’s bottles, he said.

The health claims of such sports drinks were “a fallacy”.

In Nelson-Marlborough last year nearly 300 adults and children were anaesthetised and had teeth removed at a cost to the health board of more than $1 million.

“Most of their teeth were taken out because they were rotten from too many fizzy drinks.

“It’s totally preventable.”

Dr Beaglehole also called for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

That policy is supported by Fizz, a group of public health specialists and scientists, who want such drinks removed totally by 2025, the same year other health campaigners are aiming for a smokefree New Zealand.

Fizz is pushing for hefty, tobacco-style taxes on added-sugar milks, juices, soft drinks and energy/sports drinks because of the links between weight gain and intake of calorie-packed drinks.

Minister of Health Tony Ryall said the Government did not support a sugar tax.

The Green Party said it favoured a sugar drink levy and Labour said it would look at a “range of measures to reduce obesity”.

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