Blog: Chris Brook-CarterFat chat

Chris Brook-Carter | 17 November 2003

Consumers, I think, have accepted the slightly contradictory message from alcoholic drinks companies asking them to continue consuming their products, but in moderation, through sensible drinking messages on spirits packaging and in advertising. The news last week that the confectionary giant Cadbury is considering putting a message on its products in the UK, advising consumers to eat a healthy diet, has now raised the question of whether the soft drinks companies will follow suit.

The spirits industry took this step to deflect criticism from the increasingly influential anti-alcohol lobby, at a time when the UK government is considering its stance on the regulation of advertising in the upcoming alcohol policy document.

The announcement by Cadbury is the result of a set of circumstances that mirror the awkward position the alcohol industry has found itself in. The opposition this time though is the health and obesity lobby.

Food and drinks companies have borne the brunt of the criticism for the frightening rise in obesity in the UK and the US in particular. Confectionary and soft drinks producers have been warned they may face damages claims from overweight people blaming the industry for their health problems. And then this week, the UK Food Standards Agency revealed that it was considering whether to recommend to the government that the advertising of soft drinks and “unhealthy” foods to children should be regulated.

The soft drinks industry will defend its position hard, claiming that lack of exercise, rather than diet, is to blame for the rise in obesity. And although the idea of health warnings on cans of Coke is vaguely ridiculous, soft drinks companies should take a leaf from the book of their alcoholic cousins with measures to try and regain some of the moral high ground.

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