20 Oct 2015

'Odd pie' not a bad idea - Health Minister

6:54 pm on 20 October 2015

A debate in Parliament today about the government's new anti-obesity package quickly descended into an argument about the virtue of eating pies.

The 2015 Supreme Pie Awards winner - the humble PotatoTop Pie that won top prize with its "flavoursome filling, super creamy potato top and delicious pastry shell"

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has said the government will not introduce a tax on sugary drinks - or a ban on school tuck shop pies. Photo: SUPPLIED - AMG Group

The topic was supposed to be the government plan to tackle childhood obesity, which focuses on getting people more active throughout their lives starting with pregnancy and early childhood.

During parliamentary question time, Green Party MP Kevin Hague asked Health Minister Jonathan Coleman why the plan did not include a sugary drinks tax.

But Dr Coleman said again that there was not enough evidence to justify a tax.

"I know the member would love to tax all sorts of things... All I know is that if we have a Labour-Greens government, the price of everything is going to go up - it won't be just soft drinks."

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern then challenged Dr Coleman over whether the National-led government made the right move by getting rid of Labour's healthy eating guidelines in schools.

"Does he agree with his colleague, the Honourable Anne Tolley's statement, that children who need 'that instant hit of carbohydrates - a pie might not be a bad thing' and her subsequent decision to scrap healthy eating guidelines for schools in 2009?"

Dr Coleman said he believed the decision was widely welcomed by schools at the time but Ms Ardern persisted.

"Is he now contradicting himself, given that he said in 2005 that 'I can show you primary schools where kids have a $1 pie for breakfast from the school tuck shop then follow up with more of the same for lunch, that's what has to stop'?"

Dr Coleman was unfazed and said he did not think there was any contradiction.

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Health Minister Jonathan Coleman Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

"The point is we're not going to be banning pies. We're going to be working with schools, with families, with communities to educate them that the odd pie now and then might not be a bad idea."

His ministerial colleague, Paula Bennett, then got in on the action, saying she might know "a thing about pies or two".

She asked Dr Coleman for Mrs Tolley's full quote on pies and whether he had seen any other reports on pies recently.

Dr Coleman was happy to put the record straight on Mrs Tolley's behalf.

"The full quote was 'for the kid who has just been doing two hours of rugby practice and needs that instant hit of carbohydrates, a pie might not be a bad thing'," he said.

Dr Coleman also suggested the All Blacks' recent Rugby World Cup success might be due to eating pies.