Plain and/or Terrifying Packaging Considered for Junk Food in New Zealand (and Australia)


Credit: McDonalds

Kiwis (and Aussies!) are getting tubby (or at least their public health officials are growing increasingly concerned about obesity). An advisory panel of food science, nutrition, and manufacturing experts are recommending that New Zealand and Australia consider trying to slow the growth of thier collective muffin tops by packaging junk food the same way many countries now treat cigarettes—with plain white wrappers or logos covered up by gruesome warning labels about the potential consequences of consumption. 

In New Zealand, Otago University professor of marketing Janet Hoek said tobacco use there had halved since the introduction of policies to restrict the way it was marketed.

She called on the NZ Government to do the same for junk food, telling the New Zealand Herald "it makes sense to examine the potential these policies could have in reducing consumption of foods associated with obesity".

In February, Queensland [Australia] Health Minister Lawrence Springborg told The Courier-Mail he was "anti-nanny state", but in relation to food regulation "there are some things where government cannot dismiss stepping in, and this is one of those".

Credit: HHS

Backers say scary labels on soda and other food blamed for the nation's expanding waistline would be no different than slapping those warnings on cigarettes. But a move toward grisly tobacco labels was blocked in the U.S. after courts repeatedly ruled that the mandatory images of cancerous lungs and cadavers violated free speech protections. While the legal landscape is not identical in New Zealand, expect a similar battle to ensue. 

(UPDATE: Edited to reflect the fact that this is a joint Aussie/Kiwi phenomenon.)