Going hard on soft drinks
The soft drinks industry has suffered some negative spotlight this year, from NHS England’s plans to cut sales of sugary drinks on NHS premises to Action on Sugar’s criticism of the sugar content of fruit drinks – and of course the UK government’s announcement of a soft drinks industry levy from April 2018.
Today, Cancer Research UK is warning that, on average, 11-18 year olds drink almost a full bath tub of sugary drinks a year – the equivalent of 234 cans of soft drink per year.
Alison Cox, director of prevention at Cancer Research UK, says, “It’s shocking that teenagers are drinking the equivalent of a bathtub of sugary drinks a year. We urgently need to stop this happening and the good news is that the government’s sugar tax will play a crucial role in helping to curb this behaviour. The ripple effect of a small tax on sugary drinks is enormous, and it will give soft drinks companies a clear incentive to reduce the amount of sugar in drinks.
“When coupled with the government’s plan to reduce sugar in processed food, we could really see an improvement to our diets. But the government can do more to give the next generation a better chance, by closing the loop hole on junk food advertising on TV before the 9pm watershed. The UK has an epidemic on its hands, and needs to act now.”
The calculation stems from National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data, which actually found a drop in the amount of sugar sweetened soft drinks consumed by children – of course the Cancer Research announcement doesn’t highlight the improving figures.
Gavin Partington, BSDA director general, explains, “The latest government NDNS data actually shows that teenagers’ sugar intake from soft drinks is down by eight per cent. This is not surprising since soft drinks companies’ action on reformulation and smaller pack sizes has helped drive a 17% cut in sugar consumed from soft drinks since 2012.”
Credit where credit is due, last year the soft drinks sector became the only category to set a voluntary calorie reduction target of 20 per cent by 2020, and extended the advertising rules regarding under 16s to all online media.