Last week the UK announced it would introduce a tax on sugary drinks. This morning the Ministry of Education has urged all of our schools to remove sugary drinks from their premises. It seems like a no-brainer. Selling sugary drinks to kids at school directly contradicts the nutrition and health messages they are receiving in class.
Sugary drinks are leading cause of tooth decay in New Zealand and they significantly contribute to childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes. This comes at a huge cost to the taxpayer – both now as we extract kids’ teeth (approximately 37,000 teeth extracted last year!) and in the future as the burden of Type 2 diabetes hits the health system.
Besides having no nutritional value, sugary drinks displace healthier beverage options. Sugary drinks are cheap, readily available and accessible, and are one of the most widely advertised products, particularly to children and adolescents.
The response to sugary drinks needs to be similar to that taken against tobacco and alcohol where legislation and regulation are essential components of policies to curb their use.
The World Health Organisation recommends a child should consume no more than 3 teaspoons of sugar a day. A 600mL bottle of coke contains 16 teaspoons of sugar – over 3 times a child’s daily limit. And we sell that to them in school?
DHBs removed sugary drinks from their premises last year, some councils have followed suit. Removing sweet drinks from schools is the next logical step.
Parents and concerned members of the community need to encourage their schools to adopt a healthy drink policy by sending a letter to their Principal and Board of Trustees. A sample letter and draft policy for your use is available here:Download now