Health groups' plea to cola majors: please snip sales

Health groups' plea to cola majors: please snip sales

 Fourteen public health institutions, including two from India, have written to the Coca Cola and PepsiCo requesting them to reduce the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages in India and other parts of the the developing world because of the adverse public health impact.

Red flagging the perilous consequences of carbonated drinks including 1,84,000 deaths every year, the institutions asked the companies to desist from marketing their products to kids below 16 years, reduce the container size and carry a health warning. They also suggested reduction of the calorie content of these beverages to no more than 40 calories per 355 ml bottle.

The letters were sent to the chief executive officers of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo as well as to the companies’ major institutional investors in the run-up to Coca-Cola’s annual meeting on April 27 and PepsiCo’s on May 4.

“While sugar-drink consumption in the US and Europe has been declining, your company and others are investing billions of dollars annually to increase sales in low and middle-income countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America,” says the letter.

The signatories are George Institute for Global Health from Australia and India; Alliance for the Control of Tobacco Use and Health Promotion, Brazil; The Nutritional Health Alliance, Mexico; Australia and New Zealand Obesity Society from Australia; Centre for Science and Environment, India, World Obesity Federation and World Public Health Nutrition Association.

“Around two lakh deaths occur every year due to sugar related diseases. The negative impact of sugar is a critical area to be worked upon,” said Vivekananda Jha, executive director of George Institute for Global Health, India.

Studies carried out by the Diabetes Foundation and Centre of Nutrition and Metabolic Research suggest per capita consumption of sugary beverages has gone up by over five times in India since 1998, demonstrating the impact of the marketing undertaken by these companies in India.

Excess sugar in the body causes multiple disorders and eventually leads to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, among other diseases.

Sin tax

While several Indian public health specialists suggested a sin tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, a committee on the Goods and Services Tax headed by Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian proposed 40% tax on aerated drinks – a move that was opposed by cola companies.

In February, non-governmental organisation Centre for Science in the Public Interest released a report exposing how Coke and Pepsi are spending billions in Brazil, China, India, and Mexico to promote sugar-drink sales.

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