Hospitals ban sugary drinks

SARAH DUNN
Last updated 13:00 21/02/2014
Nelson Hospital
MARION VAN DIJK/Fairfax NZ
NO TO FIZZY: Nelson Hospital shop with red spots marking products to be shortly removed from sale due to a new policy to not sell sugar added products at the hospital.
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Sugary drinks are being banned at Nelson and Wairau Hospitals to send a "clear message" about improving diet and health.

In what is being hailed as a national first, a change in the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board's healthy eating policy means that all drinks sweetened with sugar will be taken off the shelves at cafes and shops on hospital grounds. Soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and flavoured milk are all forbidden after March 31. Fruit juices with no added sugar will not be affected.

A NMDHB representative said the Nelson Hospital cafe already leaned towards healthy choices, stocking flavoured milks and smoothie products rather than soft drinks, but these would be removed as well under the policy.

Chief executive Chris Fleming said the DHB and hospitals had a responsibility to model healthy food policies and practices for the community. He wanted to provide an environment where making healthy choices was easy.

"This policy change sends a clear message regarding diet and health and our commitment to the health of people in Nelson Marlborough.

"Drinks with added sugar are the leading source of sugar for New Zealand children, and the leading risk factor for obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay."

He acknowledged the policy could affect sales at the Nelson Hospital shop, which is operated by volunteers who return profits to the hospital through equipment purchases, but said that the district's health had to be the board's main priority.

"The hospital cafes have been very supportive of the healthy eating policy and have not stocked fizzy drinks or energy drinks for some time, and have now agreed to take other sugar-sweetened beverages off the shelves," Mr Fleming said.

The board's principal dental officer Dr Rob Beaglehole congratulated Mr Fleming and the executive leadership team for having the foresight to change the policy.

"The drinks that will come off the shelves in Nelson Marlborough hospitals have no nutritional value, and are widely advertised and marketed, especially to children, adolescents and low income groups," he said.

He hoped the DHB's example would lead to Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough councils adopting similar policies.

"My understanding is that this is the first DHB in the country to make this change in policy," he said.

In July last year, Dr Beaglehole made presentations to the Nelson City Council and the Tasman District Council to ban the sale of sugary drinks from council premises.

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Nelson councillors were evenly divided on his call, meaning it did not proceed.

But a spokeswoman said he was welcome to approach the council again on the issue.

Dr Beaglehole has described sugar as "the new tobacco".

"It is dangerous, addictive and toxic and cannot be controlled alone by trying to educate the public."

New Zealanders' consumption of sugar was one of the highest in the Western world, averaging 56 kilograms per person per year, the equivalent of 40 teaspoons of sugar a day, he said.

- The Nelson Mail

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