21 Feb 2014

Push to restrict sale of sugary drinks

3:23 pm on 21 February 2014

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) plans to remove all sugary drinks from sale at schools within four years.

The territory's chief minister, Katy Gallagher, says the first step will be pulling all high-sugar content drinks from vending machines at public schools by the start of next term.

There are currently only five drink vending machines, mostly at high schools, in the ACT.

But the territory's administration has promised to completely phase out the drinks from all public schools by 2017 in an effort to curb rising obesity rates, and Ms Gallagher says stripping the vending machines of sugar-laden drinks is a good first step.

She says the next step is to phase the drinks out of school canteens.

Meanwhile, health experts in New Zealand are drawing up guidelines on how to restrict the sale and advertising of sugary drinks, including a 20 percent tax. The New Zealand Beverage Guidance Panel, launched on Thursday, will eventually present its recommendations to the Government.

The draft proposals include making sure only sugar-free drinks are sold at hospitals, restricting the marketing of unhealthy food and drinks to children, and setting a 20 percent tax on sugary drinks.

Rob McNeil, who has researched how the industry works, says companies need to be pressured to change, and won't lead the way unless they benefit.

"Industry will lead things that they can get mileage out of," Dr McNeil says. "I can't see that they're going to lead anything that's going to have substantial health impact. I think it takes the health sector, government, NGOs to put pressure on industry."

Coca-Cola says it has already launched smaller-sized drinks, and more sugar-free variations of its range.