Blog: Chris Brook-CarterCSDs - you have nothing to lose but your chains

Chris Brook-Carter | 21 October 2005

An interesting article appeared on just-drinks today (21 October) concerning the link between soft drink sales and adolescent obesity. Whisper it quietly, but - as we here at just-drinks have been arguing for years and, what the soft drinks industry has unsuccessfully tried to articulate in the face of overwhelming media hostility - soft drinks are not the sole, nor the leading, reason for the huge numbers of obese teenagers across the Western world.

It may not be politically correct, but a new study, performed by the Center for Food, Nutrition, and Agriculture Policy at the University of Maryland, US, argues that consuming soft drinks from vending machines during school hours has no impact on adolescent obesity. Analysis based on data from two large US government food consumption surveys and data from previous studies performed on the topic, concluded that teens do not drink enough servings of soft drinks from vending machines to make a dent in the their body mass index (BMI).

For too long the soft drinks industry has been used as an easy target for those looking for someone to blame for rising obesity. Parents, schools and governments – with whom the real responsibility for our youth’s upbringing should lie, rather than FMCG companies – have washed their hands of any responsibility for diet and exercise.

Let’s face it, Coke and Pepsi are hardly new products and have been part of many healthy children’s diets for decades. The difference now is that they have become part of a lifestyle skewed towards convenience, where balance and common sense hold little sway. In the UK, the government has sold off school playing fields at a scandalous rate and it has taken a TV campaign by a celebrity chef to bring even a semblance of change to the appalling standard of school meals.

The drinks industry’s real crime has been in not responding early enough to the threat rising obesity poses to their own businesses. Instead of reaching out to communities to find solutions or focussing on the healthier brands in their portfolio, companies opted to bury their heads in the sand for too long. This has begun to change and the success of campaigns such as PepsiCo’s Green Spot combined with research such as today’s may help to shift the debate onto wider causes.


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