24 Jun 2017

Soft drink industry pledges water-only sales for primary schools

3:32 pm on 24 June 2017

A pledge by the beverage industry to stop selling sugary drinks in schools is laudable but actions speak louder than words, a public health lecturer says.

Bottles of soft drinks, isolated on a white background. (file photo)

Photo: 123RF

The New Zealand Beverage Council has committed to selling only bottled water to primary and intermediate schools and to avoid directly selling sugar-sweetened soft drinks or any energy drinks to secondary schools.

The council says it will work with third party wholesalers to encourage them to stick to the commitment.

University of Auckland public health lecturer Simon Thornley said if that was achieved it could be very beneficial - but there was no enforcement and there were potential loopholes.

Although the industry produces the drinks, it does not directly sell them, and the crucial area is whether retailers take the pledge on board, he said.

"These voluntary pledges are great in principle but I think actions speak louder than words and we obviously need to monitor what's happening in schools and whether the industry is living its stated promises."

Dr Thornley is one of a group of academics behind advocacy group Fizz, set up to campaign to reduce sugary drink intake in New Zealand, which advocated for a sugary drink tax.

He said it was very important that the industry planned to work with third-party retailers to reduce sugary drinks around schools.

"Schools have control of what happens within the school gates. Often what happens outside the school gates is a totally different story."

The New Zealand Beverage Council has been contacted for comment.

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