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Williams: Safeguarding public health in Wales

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales

"We are here to show constructive opposition to provide everyone who shops in Wales with detailed information about exactly what is being eaten.

Believe it or not, I have conducted my own research in north Wales, and I can confirm that people do take notice of what is on the wrapper, and they often find that the information that they are seeking is well hidden in small print.

We know that salt and sugar are killers. So many people eat processed foods simply to fit in with their busy lifestyles, but there is so much hidden salt and sugar in these types of foods.

We, as a collective body, must put pressure on companies to cut back on the amount of salt and sugar used in products, and to use alternative methods of flavouring, such as fresh herbs or natural sweeteners.

We need to develop a traffic-light system, using red for high salt and high sugar content, amber for medium content and, obviously, green for low content.

This is a straightforward and, I believe, positive suggestion to help food producers and consumers. We must promote, as the Assembly currently does, healthy, wholesome foods, and not junk foods.

I support the 9 p.m. watershed for junk food advertisements. If these products are not forced down children's throats—pardon the pun—by large multi-national companies, then children will not crave them.

In promoting healthy eating, the National Assembly and Westminster Governments must work together to promote and support this ban.

Information is power, and we need to get the message across that a balanced diet is needed for young and old.

We really need to look at clear, concise labelling with regard to countries of origin.

This must detail information relating to animal health and welfare, and must be about where the meat was reared, and not where it was processed or packed.

If a pig is born in Wales, and then transported to France to be made into pork pies, the country of origin should clearly be marked as 'Wales'.

The difficulty lies in when the product is mixed with meat and substitutes from many other countries.

The consumer has a right to know all the risks involved when purchasing food. Many countries do not produce products to the same standards as UK producers and farmers.

Certain countries still use growth promoters on red and white meat. We need to know the facts, as this food could be coming into the food chain in Wales.

Consumers need to be aware of the background issues. They need to know that some countries are still dipping cattle against ticks and mites in organophosphorus. They need to know all the risks, and that, in some countries, producers and farmers are not developed to the same standards as in the UK.

This information must be relayed to the consumer.

It is of no use for manufacturers to tell us that labelling takes up space on packaging, or that it spoils presentation on the box.

Research states that more than 22 million children under five-years-old are obese or overweight.

Obesity almost doubled between 1989 and 1999 from 5 to 9 per cent in children aged two to four. Obesity rates trebled from 5 to 16 per cent between 1990 and 2001 in children aged between six and 15.

If current trends continue, experts believe that at least a third of adults will be obese by 2020.

In light of these comments, we owe it to the people of Wales to put in place safeguards to protect their long-term health."

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