Foreign leaders are standing up and refusing to knuckle under the false claims being peddled by the food police.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key followed the example of the British government by rejecting calls from activists for a tax on foods and beverages that have sugar. Instead of caving to pressure from alarmists, the prime minister and New Zealand Health Minister Jonathan Coleman have unveiled a comprehensive plan based on real science to educate people about balance to reduce obesity.

“There is no single solution that will fix obesity. That’s why we have developed a range of interventions across government, the private sector, communities, schools and families,” Coleman said.

The health minister is exactly right. Discriminatory taxes do not improve health. They are nothing more than a distraction from the need to reach real solutions to public health challenges like obesity. Elected leaders are coming around to the fact that the way to improve public health is to educate and inform people rather than order them about. That means giving people good, accurate information and options on how best to maintain a balanced lifestyle.

Other countries that have tried the misguided “ban and tax” approach found out quickly that it does not work. In Denmark, a tax on saturated fat went over like a lead balloon and the government scrapped the tax only a year later after getting an earful from constituents. In 2014 the European Commission determined that taxes on targeted nutrients such as sugar and sodium had no discernible effect on public health.

Americans are no different when it comes to regressive taxes on common grocery items. In the United States, polls show time and again that the public opposes not only soda taxes but attempts by government to dictate what we eat and drink. Educating people about how to achieve balance and then letting consumers decide for themselves how best to do that is the way to better public health. It preserves freedom of choice and can have a true impact on health.