Milk versus cola: Bangalore University gets it right

Bangalore University (BU) has taken the right step by deciding to set up milk booths in the sprawling Jnana Bharati campus in an attempt to wean students away from unhealthy aerated drinks. In due course, all shops selling fizzy drinks will be shut down and replaced with Nandini milk parlours owned by the Karnataka Milk Federation. In fact, the students themselves have for long been demanding Nandini booths as its products are affordable. The outlets, which will remain open from 6 am to 10 pm, will go a long way in sustaining local dairy farmers as it would lead to an increase in the sale of milk and milk-based products.

According to a study titled ‘Carbonating the World’, commissioned by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, America’s food and health watchdog, the declining sales of soft drinks in wealthy nations has forced cola companies to spend billions of dollars a year in countries like India, Brazil and China to build bottling plants, create distribution networks and advertise their products. With this, the report adds, the companies are promoting some deadly diseases in countries that are already struggling to provide healthcare to their growing populations. The ailments associated with consumption of sugar-laced, artificially flavoured sodas include diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and tooth decay, to mention a few.  According to the Harvard School of Public Health, people who drink 1-2 cans of sugary beverages per day are 26% more likely to develop type-2 diabetes. Following global outrage, a cola major has announced that it will launch its new flavours with either reduced or no sugar.

The per capita consumption of soft drinks in India is much lower than in countries like the United States, and market reports suggest that cola companies are looking at doubling this to 81 bottles by 2021 through an aggressive correction of “under-penetration and consumption patterns”. Most consumers fall in the teenage and young adult groups. BU’s decision is worthy of emulation by varsities and colleges across the state as it will promote good health among students who are otherwise becoming addicted to junk food. In addition, educational institutions should also encourage the consumption of fruits and fruit juices on their campuses. Besides their obvious health benefits, this will also support farmers in the state who grow a variety of fruits like pineapple, watermelon, orange, guava, pomegranate, mango, lemon, papaya, sapota, and butter fruit. BU’s move against carbonated drinks may raise questions about the freedom of the consumer to choose, but the advantages of growing up healthy far outweigh that concern.

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