Australian Health Minister Tony Abbott warned of the dangers of excessive consumption of sweetened soft drinks and their contribution to rising obesity levels and diabetes yesterday.
"I think that soft drinks, other than as an occasional treat, can be very, very harmful," Abbott said at a conference on diabetes yesterday (13 Nov). "It's distressing that soft drinks are overwhelmingly the biggest single sellers in our supermarkets right around Australia. I'm not saying that it be banned, but I do think that it should be something that people buy for the occasional treat, not as a regular part of their kids' diets."
While he had tough words for the industry, Abbott stopped short of recommending any ban or change to advertising regulations. "The government ought to help get the message out there that soft drink is all very well as an occasional treat, but it's not something that should be a staple of kids' diets," Abbott added.

Nearly 80% of Australian adolescents drink a soft drink every week, the conference was told, and more than a quarter of toddlers aged two or three have fizzy drinks every day. Per capita soft drinks consumption in Australia has doubled over the past 35 years to 113 litres.
A leading obesity expert said the campaign should not be focused solely on carbonated soft drinks (CSDs). "It's not just soft drink doing the damage," said Professor Boyd Swinburn of Deakin University. "Primary school kids don't drink a heck of a lot of soft drink but they do drink a lot of fruit drinks and sweetened cordial . . . and I put them all in the one bunch."

Meanwhile, Peter Little, national president of Diabetes Australia, called for soft drinks to carry warning labels. "It's probably reasonable to educate people to link that energy value to how much exercise you have to do," he said.