The obesity conference

Marika Hill at Stuff reports:

University of Auckland associate professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu said consumers were often left baffled by food labelling and struggled to make informed health choices.

Relying on people to exercise self control was not working, she added.

“We’ve failed because our focus is on the individual to make healthy choices.”

Yeah if people make bad choices, we must do something about it. Or not.

She called for a large-scale trial of either traffic lights or a star-rating food system, which would rate food based on health factors.

Star-rating labels in parts of the United State saw a significant increase in people buying healthy food, she said.

As a general rule transparency is a good thing. When I purchase food now, I religiously read the nutritional information box.

However things are not always simple. For example alcohol does not have these boxes. The reason, as I understand it, is because on most of the measures listed such as fats it comes up really well, so people may think alcohol is healthier than it really is.

There may be a halfway measure where the calorie count only is included on alcohol. I noticed in Australia that shops serving  fresh food tend to include the calorie count with the food. Not sure if this is required or voluntary, but I for one found it useful being able to compare the calorie counts of say different pastas as the airport.

The controversial fat-tax was also debated at the conference.

Professor Wayne Cutfield, director of the Liggins Institute in Auckland, said the world’s first fat and sugar tax failed to make its mark in Denmark.

In January, the Danish Government introduced higher taxes on beer, wine, chocolate, candy, sodas and cream.

However, the Government was now reviewing the fat-tax following an outcry over manufacturing job losses and shoppers buying bad food across the country’s borders.

I’m not surprised. Just as banning school tuckshops from selling certain foods just drove kids across the street. Them the health police want to ban certain foods from 500 metres of a school. Eventually they’ll propose a Government set menu for the entire country.

Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the obesity epidemic was a complex issue that could not be solved by over-simplified food labels or slapping a tax on unhealthy food.

“There has to be common sense about these issues.

“You can’t pass laws to make people eat healthy.”

And unhealthy food often costs more than healthy food. It is about education and responsible parenting and self-control.

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