And yet, there is no sign of government action
Britain’s Conservative government placed a sugar tax on soft drinks recently.
Chancellor George Osborne said, “I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this Parliament, doing this job and say to my children’s generation: ‘I’m sorry – we knew there was a problem with sugary drinks. We knew it caused disease. But we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing.’”
How awkward for our government to hear this at a time when they themselves are ducking the difficult decisions.
Big bottles of soft drink, priced low, are the biggest selling products in our supermarkets, and poor diets are close to overtaking tobacco as New Zealand’s biggest killer.
New Zealanders are facing record-breaking levels of type-two Diabetes and heart disease. People who have experienced or seen people suffer from either of these diseases in their family would know the extent of the tragedy.
It’s also an economic burden that New Zealand cannot afford. Our health system is already stretched without a looming health crisis. Any fiscally responsible government would act on this.
Meanwhile, it is our children who are bearing the brunt of this government’s inaction on sugar. Young children do not choose sugary food and drinks – they are given to them.
In a recent newspaper article, a Kiwi dentist said that he had to extract 11 teeth from a two-year-old child. The boy then needed 15 stitches in his mouth.
I find this absolutely tragic.
And to our country’s great shame, our government is prioritising the junk food lobby instead of children who are vulnerable.
If the government was serious about the health of New Zealanders, it would be restricting junk-food marketing to children, putting healthy food policies in schools, investigating a tax on sugary drinks and introducing proper food labels that people can understand, instead of bowing down to the food manufacturing lobby.
Banning some stuff
One of the first things this government did when it came to power was change the law to allow unhealthy foods back into school tuck shops.
Well, now we have an obesity epidemic among our children.
Today’s children deserve to enjoy the same great health and vitality we had in our childhoods. That comes from the simplicity of a balanced diet and water to drink.
David Shearer is an elected Member of Parliament from Mt Albert in Auckland and Labour Party’s spokesman for Foreign Affairs.