Benchmarking Food Environments

The third New Zealand Healthy Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI) was conducted in February to May 2020 by an Expert Panel of over 50 independent and government public health experts. It used an evidence-based approach to benchmark policies and actions of the Government against international best practice for creating healthier food environments. The Government has made virtually no progress on implementing healthy food policies since 2017. Some policies were at the level of international best practice, but many large ‘implementation gaps’ were identified, including for healthy food in schools, fiscal policies and marketing restrictions for unhealthy foods. Gaps were identified relating to government infrastructure support for prevention of obesity and diet-related diseases, in particular the lack of government leadership and limited monitoring of progress.

The Expert Panel recommended 39 actions, prioritising 13 for immediate action. There is a strong call for a renewed approach to developing a comprehensive multi-sector Food Systems and Nutrition Strategy to improve food systems and diets. The Government is strongly urged to act on the priority actions to improve the diets of New Zealanders, especially for children, and to reduce the burgeoning health damage and healthcare costs of obesity and unhealthy diets.