Banned slushy 'met policy'

SARAH DUNN
Last updated 12:58 10/04/2014

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Slushy defies hospital's sugar ban

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There's been a sour reaction to the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board's policy on drinks with added sugar.

Changes to the board's healthy eating policy came into effect a week ago, and bar the sale of all beverages with added sugar on hospital grounds. Fruit juices with no added sugar were not affected.

The hospital's volunteer-run shop has recently advertised a new frozen slushy product named Fruzo, but acting chief executive Eric Sinclair said on Tuesday that the slushies were not allowed as they listed sugar as an added ingredient.

Zexx NZ Ltd makes the Fruzo drinks. Managing director Derek Sampson said his company supported the new anti-sugar policy and hoped that other DHBs would adopt it, but he felt it was too broad to meet its objective of only making healthy beverages available at the hospital.

"One hundred per cent fruit juice products contain more natural sugar than that of Fruzo, which contains 50 per cent fruit juice and a small amount of added sugar."

Sampson said he felt undiluted fruit juice was an unhealthy choice. An average 200ml glass of Fruzo slushy has around 2-and-a-half teaspoons of added sugar and an equivalent amount in naturally-occurring fruit sugars.

Sampson said Fruzo was developed to provide an alternative to the high-sugar beverages that were contributing "in no small way" to obesity and obesity-related illnesses in New Zealand. It carries the Heart Foundation's Fuelled 4 Life mark which means it is recommended for sale or provision at schools and early childhood education services.

Eight schools in the Nelson and Marlborough area stock Fruzo at their canteens, including Nelson College and Nelson College for Girls.

Zexx Tasman district representative Mike Young said he was aware of the DHB's policy on sugar-sweetened beverages. He said he only installed a machine in Nelson Hospital's volunteer-run shop on the condition that the store management first got the board's approval before starting to sell slushies. He rejects any claim that those running the shop were misled about Fruzo's sugar content.

Rodger Curry, president of the Nelson Hospital volunteer services organisation, which runs the shop, said it never defied the sugar-sweetened beverage policy because no slushies were sold. He said he still believed the Fruzo product was within the policy guidelines.

"Since the new policy was put in place last month we have lost about 30-40 per cent of our trade, so I attempted to find a way to bring our customers back.

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"I discovered this product and did a lot of research before deciding to run with it, as I believed it was well within the new DHB guidelines.

"I then contacted policy makers in the DHB to verify that the product met their criteria. After three attempts to get an answer without any reply, I made the decision to have the machine installed and sent out flyers to our largest customer base - the hospital staff.

"Two days after the flyers went out I was told that the product may not meet the policy requirements.

"I was not impressed as I felt I had done as much as I could have. I then contacted the juice company Zexx NZ Ltd and advised them that we would have to delay the installation of the machine.

"Zexx NZ Ltd has been very professional in their dealings with me and at no time have I felt pressured or duped as reported. I have over 20 years' experience in purchasing."

Curry said the volunteers had nothing but good intentions as all profit from the shop was returned to Nelson Hospital through donations. The donations came in the form of goods deemed unaffordable by the NMDHB, which were requested by various hospital departments.

He said the volunteers had donated around $100,000 to the hospital over the last four years.

Sinclair yesterday afternoon said the NMDHB stood by its decision not to sell sugary drinks.

- Nelson

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