Speaking to Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB this morning, New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern said that reducing sugar is a priority of the new government.
When asked by Hosking if she backed a sugar tax, Ardern said she is in support of limiting sugar in New Zealand foods. “We’ve backed reducing sugar in our foods, in fact most Kiwis I think would support that,” she said. “I know we’ve got a problem, and I think people would be surprised by how much sugar is being placed in everyday items.”
Ardern said a broader approach was needed to be fully effective. “One of the issues we’ve had though, is people have always promoted the idea of a tax on sugary drinks as being the answer, but actually the increasing use of sugar is across a number of food items, not just drinks.”
Responding to questions regarding a sugar tax, Ardern said they would not rule it out, but other options would be privileged. “We’ve said, and [Health Minister] David Clarke has clearly said we want to work with industry and try and get the rate abuse down, try and encourage industry to do that themselves, but really leave all our options on the table.”
If a sugar tax were to be implemented, would it come before 2020? Hosking pointed out that this “would be an election promise breach,” given that Labour declared no taxes other than what they had pre-announced would be introduced in their first term in government.
“We’re making sure that we use some of the options that still exist before that,” Ardern replied. “There’s examples in the UK where they got salt down dramatically by working alongside industries. We should make use of those options.”
Ultimately, the new prime minister said that sugar is a pressing issue which demands attention. “We’re pretty serious about making sure this is dealt with,” she told Hosking.
One possible change that could occur is labelling sugar content on the front of food packages so it is more visible.