Slushy defies ban on sugar


Flyers advertising free frozen slushies have heralded the first challenge to Nelson Marlborough District Health Board's ban on sugar-sweetened drinks.

The restrictions have been hailed as a national first, and came into effect a week ago. The changes to the board's health eating policy forbid all soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, flavoured milk and all other sugary beverages from hospital grounds. Fruit juices with no added sugar were not affected.

Principal dental officer Rob Beaglehole is a driving force behind the ban. He said the volunteer-run gift shop at Nelson Hospital had recently started advertising a new slushy product named Fruzo which violated the sugar-free policy.

Flyers put up around Nelson Hospital said all staff were eligible for a free slushy to try out.

The slushies are made by a New Zealand company named Zexx NZ, and are available in flavours such as "bubblegum" and "purple passion". Zexx's website said the Fruzo product was developed specifically for the Australian and New Zealand school market.

Beaglehole said he had requested a list of ingredients from the manufacturer and found the Fruzo slushies were based on water, apple juice concentrate and sugar.

"[The manager], unfortunately, has been duped into buying it believing it was natural sugar."

He said acting chief executive Eric Sinclair was dealing with the situation: "It's been suggested that [the manager] doesn't start selling it.

"He's just trying his hardest to make a profit for the shop."

The manager declined to comment.

Beaglehole said he had been inundated with inquiries from other boards and companies which wanted to put in place a similar policy.

Zexx Tasman district representative Mike Young said slushies had to contain a certain amount of sugar for the desired texture.

"A slushy must be between 11 to 13 brix. It has to be sweet or it won't slush."

Brix is a measurement which refers to the sugar content of a water solution. One degree brix means the substance has one gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution, but if the solution contains ingredients other than sugar and water, the measurement is less accurate.

Young was not able to provide an accurate measurement of Fruzo's sugar content, but the figures he gave indicate that one 200ml glass of slushy has about five teaspoons of sugar in it.

He said the slushies were based on natural apple juice, and it was "very, very rare" that the factory had to add sugar to reach the right level of sweetness.

Sinclair said the Fruzo slushies listed sugar as an added ingredient, and it was the board's opinion that this meant they did not comply with board policy. He said the product would not be for sale in the hospital.