University of Otago researchers are waging war on sugary
drinks and junk food.
The fight involves calling for increased regulation, targeted
taxes, a ban on marketing junk food to children and
''eliminating sugary drinks from New Zealand by 2025''.
Two Otago University researchers, Associate Prof Tony
Merriman and Dr Lisa Te Morenga, are part of the group,
called Fizz, which aims to eliminate sugary drinks.
Modelled on New Zealand's anti-tobacco campaign, the group
includes New Zealand researchers and public health doctors
who share a concern about the connection between sugary
drinks and poor health, including obesity, type-2 diabetes,
rotten teeth and gout.
''What really made me want to join the group was my research
funding connecting sugary drinks and gout,'' Prof Merriman
''The aim is not only to reduce the consumption of sugary
drinks but also provide more information to the general
The connection between sugary drinks and poor health was less
obvious than the negative effects of smoking and the public
needed to know the facts, he said.
He believed the group's aim to ban sugary drinks was
''aspirational'' and a way to get people talking.
''People can look and think ... why are they making those
aims and that's when you are able to provide some more
He also promoted Government regulation on sugary drinks,
including increased taxes.
In another front in the war on junk food, Otago University
Wellington researchers last week called for a ban on
''manipulative junk food advertising to children''.
This included offering free toys, competitions and having
promotional characters and celebrities connected to products,
some of the techniques used to promote junk food to kids
uncovered in the researchers' systematic literature review.
Lead researcher Dr Gabrielle Jenkin said this type of
marketing was manipulative, especially for children.
''Such marketing has been proven to increase children's
requests for the advertised foods, their food preferences and
ultimately their diets,'' she said,.
She and her research colleagues were calling for an outright
ban on junk food advertising to children under 16, as had
been done in Norway.
In the absence of a ban, new rules should to be added to
advertising codes on the use of persuasive techniques, as has
been done in the United Kingdom, Australia and Ireland, the
Dr Jenkin said the marketing of energy-dense, nutrient-poor
food and beverages had come under increasing public health
scrutiny by international health organisations.
''Addressing this issue would make a meaningful contribution
to curbing the international obesity epidemic besieging
children throughout the world,'' she said.