Sunday 26 May 2024

Media release 16 May 2024 New Zealand’s food system is out of balance, with urgent action needed to protect the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders, a new report has found. The Public Health Advisory Committee (PHAC) has released its first report – Rebalancing our food system. The report examines the deficiencies of how we produce, distribute, and consume food in New Zealand and the approach needed to ensure our food systems support the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders. The PHAC chair Kevin Hague says New Zealand’s food system is working best for a small number of large businesses and poorly for the health and wellbeing of many New Zealanders. “Our food system is a major contributor to New Zealand’s prosperity, helping pay for services and infrastructure that support people’s health and wellbeing,” Mr Hague says. “However, it is also out of balance and urgent action is needed to reprioritise human and environmental health over commercial incentives.” “Access to nutritious affordable food is a fundamental human right. Kai not only physically nourishes, but it also connects people to their culture, environment, community and whānau.” The report details how New Zealand’s current food system has a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders. Food insecurity, where people do not have adequate access to safe and nutritious food, is a major contributor to poor health, inequities and healthy life-years lost in New Zealand. “Our food system prioritises food as a commodity product, and as a result, is harming our health and wellbeing. Central government has an important leadership role in ensuring that our food system supports public health and wellbeing, alongside meeting economic goals.” “The Government needs to take a more active role in ensuring the food system is working for New Zealanders, and that New Zealanders’ right to access nutritious affordable kai is upheld,” Mr Hague says. “This includes, at a local level, supporting local leadership and local solutions to improving food environments.” “Healthy Families NZ introduced in 2014 provides an exemplar of how to empower communities and create system change at a local level. At present it is only operating in 10 locations nationwide.” “There is a real opportunity for the government to build on the lessons learned from Healthy Families NZ,” Mr Hague says. The report makes 13 recommendations, including: Develop a National Food Strategy to deliver a rebalanced food system that upholds Te Tiriti. Resource and enable community leadership to participate in approaches to strengthen local food systems. Improve the nutritional content of food through a comprehensive reformulation programme. Implement regulatory measures to support healthy food environments for children and young people, including restrictions on the marketing, advertising and sponsorship of unhealthy food and drinks, healthy food and drink policies in schools, and a levy on sugar-sweetened beverages. Support food security and nutrition in pregnancy, breastfeeding and childhood. This could include income support from pregnancy through the first 1000 days, extended parental leave policies, and expanding food in schools' programmes. By the numbers – the impact of our food system The majority of New Zealanders are not eating a healthy diet. Data from 2022/23 New Zealand Health Survey found that only 6.7% of adults and 4.9% of children ate the recommended combined number of servings of fruit and vegetables. Recent modelling suggests the number of New Zealanders with type-2 diabetes will increase from 220,000 in 2018 to more than 400,000 by 2040. Children are exposed to unhealthy food and drink marketing over 68 times a day, which is more than twice the amount of advertising they see for healthy products. Additional information About the Public Health Committee The Public Health Advisory Committee (PHAC) is an independent expert advisory committee focused on public health, providing evidence-based advice directly to the Minister of Health and central government health agencies. The committee, established in July 2022, looks at the long-term health challenges facing New Zealand and advises on innovative and practical solutions. The PHAC Secretariat is run by the Public Health Agency | Te Pou Hauora Tūmatanui, within the Ministry of Health | Manatū Hauora. They provide policy and administrative support to the committee. Rebalancing our food system is the committee’s first major topic report. For further information contact: Public Health Advisory Committee Chairperson, Kevin Hague. 027 291 7628

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