MP's burger date panned

JONO GALUSZKA AND EMMA HORSLEY
Last updated 12:00 06/12/2012

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A nutritional expert is outraged at the prospect of Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway - Labour's associate health spokesman - officially opening a fast food restaurant, saying it is inconsistent with his portfolio.

Burger King regional manager Manpreet Walia said the chain's new restaurant on Rangitikei St, Palmerston North, would open on December 20.

The public were welcome from about 9am after Mr Lees-Galloway had officially opened it, he said.

Massey University Associate Professor Jane Coad, a nutrition expert, said she was shocked to hear the news.

"It's not consistent with someone concerned about health.

"We have got to think about the fact that we have one of the highest rates of obesity in the OECD."

The fact that all three of the new burger restaurants in Palmerston North - Burger King, Carl's Jr and Wendy's - were on arterial routes was another concern, she said.

"[Companies] don't just put them there for fun, it's because they sell more.

"The more outlets there are, the higher the consumption."

Prof Coad said the budget for obesity prevention programmes had already been cut, sponsorship by fast-food companies for school events was high, and questions had to be raised about why a health spokesman would be involved in the opening of a burger restaurant. Mr Lees-Galloway dismissed Prof Coad's concerns and said he would use the opening as a platform to give a message that fast food restaurants should adopt a policy of food labelling in a traffic-light system so customers could make informed choices.

He said he was opening a new Palmerston North business that had created jobs.

"Primarily I have been asked to open a business in my electorate and I'm happy to do that."

Prof Coad said jobs were important, but the health of the population was just as important.

"You don't want jobs at any cost," she said.

Mr Lees-Galloway said people needed to be realistic about fast food and it was better to promote a message of restraint rather than prohibition.

"I've never seen that work in any area of health to reduce harm."

He said he was well aware of the obesity problem but there needed to be a realistic approach as people were going to eat fast food anyway.

Education along with moderation was the answer, he said.

He said he did not think Burger King had looked at getting him, as the associate health spokesman, to open the restaurant as an endorsement, nor would he open a cigarette manufacturing plant just because it brought in jobs.

"I think they have just asked their local MP to open a local business ... and cigarettes do not feature anywhere in a balanced diet."

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He was asked to open the restaurant several months ago and it was confirmed a few weeks ago.

- Manawatu Standard

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