By: Jason Walls

The Ministry of Health is looking into a sugar tax but the Government continues to rule one out for the time being.

Health Minister David Clark said the ministry chose to prepare a document, which explored the feasibility of a sugar tax, to provide him with a range of potential interventions to help tackle obesity.

That document also looked into the feasibility of reducing restaurant’s portion sizes.

Improving long-term health outcomes was a key focus of the document, obtained by Act through the Official Information Act (OIA).

The document says areas for future work could include taxes, levies and prices, “eg. sugar-sweetened beverage tax or minimum pricing”.

Other areas include:

  • Reduced portion sizes from manufacturers, restaurants and in retail
  • Restricting access of processed foods around or near schools and workplaces
  • The reformulation of processed foods
  • Looking into advertising, marketing and price promotions
  • Mandatory Health ratings and sugar labelling

Act Leader David Seymour said a sugar tax would punish the majority of New Zealanders, who were responsible people, for the sins of an “irresponsible minority”.

“People can’t live free and independent lives if they are protected from their own actions by the Government. People should instead be educated and empowered to make good decisions.”

OIA documents show Clark received a memo on May 2 last year, ahead of meetings with members of the food and beverage industry, in relation to discussing ways to reduce obesity.

In it, officials said the Ministry of Health was “scoping work to explore the feasibility and impacts of regulatory options, such as a sugar tax” as well as other policy options.

That scoping document revealed that midway through last year the Ministry of Health produced an analysis of interventions and potential regulatory changes, which could increase the availability of “less-processed foods and beverages.”

The document said these components, such as a sugar tax, would be considered, but a “detailed implementation” would only be considered if the Minister of Health decided to investigate further.

In a statement to the Herald, Clark said he only received the final version of this draft document recently and he has yet to consider it.

But he reiterated that the Government did not have plans for a sugar tax in this term of Parliament.

In September, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “It should be noted that the Government is not actively considering a tax on sugar or sugary beverages at this time.”

The next day when asked about a sugar tax, Clark told Stuff the Government had “ruled out any new taxes in this term of office and so we’re not working on that.”

He said a sugar tax was “not part of our thinking at this stage,” and said he wanted to look at the international evidence.

Source: NZ Herald


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