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Government interventions such as TV ad bans, food taxes and menu labelling are ineffective in reducing obesity, according to a new global study.

Childhood Obesity: An Economic Perspective* is a world-wide review by the respected Australian Government Productivity Commission, a research agency advising government on a range of economic, social and environmental issues.

New Zealand’s Food Industry Group (FIG) Chairman, Jeremy Irwin, says in a media release that the report is important, due to its source.

“These outcomes are highly significant – they’ve been reached by an independent and respected research team.

The Report comes to a number of important conclusions:

– “Hard interventions, such as taxes or subsidies on specific goods and services, would be difficult to justify”. The probability of success of a tax on energy-dense nutrient poor foods is rated as ‘low’.

– “Where restrictions on television advertising of energy-dense nutrient-poor foods aimed at children have been implemented, … the evidence is inconclusive”. The probability of success of banning of television advertising of certain foods to children is rated as ‘low’.

– The probability of success of mandatory labelling (such as menu board labelling) is rated as ‘low’.

For the Food Industry Group, the report signals the need to continue its work promoting commercially viable products, education and physical activity campaigns.

“FIG members continue to reduce fat, sugar and salt levels in food and provide sensible advice and information for New Zealanders who are making positive lifestyle changes,” said Irwin.

One recent example is the work done by Hamilton-based Prolife Foods to launch Mother Earth Nuts. With their lower salt and no salt variants, these products will take approximately 3 tonnes of salt out of Kiwis’ diets each year. Consumers have responded positively to the health message of Mother Earth Nuts and it is now the market leader in supermarkets. – Source: Food Industry Group website

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