Not just the drinks from NZ Beverage Council are Full of Crap

Geoff SimmonsEconomics, Health

Two weeks ago dentist Roby Beaglehole made headlines in the Dominion Post with his revelations about the impact of soft drinks on the teeth and waistlines of our kids. The New Zealand Beverage Council hit back saying that if kids drink too much soft drink it is exclusively the fault of their parents. In today’s blog we respond to the claims made in their press release.


Auckland: 29 July 2015

[quote]The issue of young children with rotten teeth raised in New Zealand media today by Dr Rob Beaglehole is one of poor parenting. No more and no less.[/quote]

If parents are responsible, why do you market to kids? Market to the parents instead. Why do you give away freebies to kids? Why are your products available in schools and kid’s sports facilities when their parents aren’t around?

[quote]Parents are, or should be, in complete control of what children of that age eat and drink. It’s a complete evasion of parental responsibility to shift the blame for the state of these children’s teeth onto the manufacturers of products which should, after all, be consumed as treats or in moderation.[/quote]

Nutrition surveys show that after the age of 7, parents rapidly lose control of what their children eat, with other influences taking over – schools, friends, sport, commercial giveaways, the child buying things for themselves. Saying parents ‘should’ be in control is to ignore that reality. If you were responsible corporates you would acknowledge that and voluntarily provide warnings to juvenile customers to consume ‘as treats only’ as you now tell us is appropriate. Why haven’t you?

[quote]It’s not the products; it’s the decision to use them inappropriately.[/quote]

Half of Kiwis don’t know how to eat healthily. Education is part of the answer, but where is the money coming from to fund that education? Surely it should come from the companies currently profiting from ignorance – which is why we need to tax soft drinks and other junk food. Or are you saying you don’t care?

[quote]Our members are parents too and are as disappointed as anyone that there should be young children in our communities with teeth in such appalling condition.[/quote]

Oh, isn’t that nice that you care about a problem you are causing. Soft drinks are the leading cause of tooth decay, and tooth decay is the top reason kids end up in hospital. And you tell us your products should be treats only yet don’t tell consumers that. How do you sleep at night?

[quote]The New Zealand Beverage Council supports and advocates that parents and caregivers have access to tools and information to ensure a healthy diet for their children.  The New Zealand Beverage Council does not support nor endorse the excessive or consumption of foods and beverages high in salt, fats and sugar.   [/quote]

WHO recommends a maximum of 3 tsp of sugar a day for kids – a can of Coke has 9tsp. So for a child, one can of Coke IS excessive. Why don’t you make a 100ml can, and label it as “100% of a child’s recommended sugar intake?” Or are your’s crocodile tears?

Another line often pushed by NZBC and the junk food industry is that:

[quote] Of New Zealanders’ total energy intake only five percent comes from non-alcoholic beverages(2011 University of Otago and Ministry of Health: ‘A Focus on Nutrition: Key Findings of the 2008/2009 New Zealand Adult Nutrition Survey’).[/quote] [quote] Just 1.6 percent of total energy intake comes from the added sugar content of sugar-sweetened non-alcoholic beverages, according to the same study.[/quote]

On average, we overeat by 10%. Not all food is created equal – we don’t want to reduce everything we eat by 10% as we’ll go hungry – we need to cut down on the junk that is stuffed full of calories and stripped of nutrients – like soft drinks! If we cut out all sugar-sweetened drinks that have no nutritional merit whatsoever, that would be 16% of our excess energy problem solved. Indeed non-alcoholic beverages generally could be up to 50% of the problem.

If you don’t agree with the NZBC’s position on this, we have made it easy for you to tell them. Simply fill out the form below and we will send them a letter to tell them so.


Dear Olly Munro (President, NZBC)

As a:

  • Parent
  • Aunty
  • Uncle
  • Grandparent
  • Caregiver/ Babysitter
  • Concerned Adult


Thanks for blaming me for the excessive consumption of soft drinks by children when they are in my care.

I think your argument contains as much logic as your drinks contain essential nutrients. I’m not there to watch the kids all day every day. You say your products are a treat yet you surround kids with marketing and opportunities to drink soft drink in order to get them pestering for more. Making sure my kids only drink soft drink as a ‘treat’ means I have to say no an awful lot. It is hard and I don’t always succeed.

I really do try my best, because I care for the kids I look after, and indeed all kids in this country. If you really do care like you say you do, why not help me? Maybe you could pop over on the weekend so my partner and I can go out to dinner! No? Okay, well how about these ideas:

  • Voluntarily fund an independent education campaign (i.e. one that doesn’t contain your propaganda)
  • Don’t advertise or promote to kids – that includes sponsorship, giveaways and plastering dairies and billboards in and near schools with your adverts
  • Make sure role models are only pushing healthy products and publicly declare that kids won’t emulate their performance by drinking sugary drinks
  • Put warning labels on your cans comparing sugar content to the WHO daily recommendation
  • Remove all your products from schools and children’s play areas
  • Back a tax on soft drinks and eventually all junk food to fund education and obesity prevention
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Not just the drinks from NZ Beverage Council are Full of Crap was last modified: December 15th, 2015 by Geoff Simmons
About the Author

Geoff Simmons

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Geoff Simmons is an economist working for the Morgan Foundation. Geoff has an Honours degree from Auckland University and over ten years experience working for NZ Treasury and as a manager in the UK civil service. Geoff has co-authored three books alongside Gareth.