BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 23 January '17

Coca-Cola’s Christmas truck tour should be banned, say public health experts

Coca-Cola’s ‘Happy Holidays’ truck tour should be banned given the growing evidence of the effect that marketing of unhealthy food and drink has on children, according to public health experts writing in The BMJ.

Free Coke

This Christmas the truck visited five locations in north west England in the first week of December and received substantial coverage in the major local newspapers in Liverpool and Manchester.

Visitors could have their photo taken with the vehicle while being given free product, including a 150ml can of standard Coca-Cola containing 15.9g – nearly four teaspoons – of sugar.

Not welcome

But Robin Ireland, Director of Food Active – a campaign based in north west England to tackle increasing obesity levels – points out that 34% of 10- to 11-year-olds in the north west are overweight or obese.

Further, 33% of 5-year-olds have tooth decay, largely down to their consumption of sugary drinks.

Many public health departments have launched campaigns about sugary drinks to try to help their communities reduce their consumption, so Coca-Cola’s campaign was scarcely welcomed by local directors of public health, medical professionals, educationalists, or indeed members of the public, he adds.

Hijacking Christmas

Such was their concern that Food Active organised a letter stating ‘We can celebrate without allowing Coca-Cola to hijack Christmas by bringing false gifts of bad teeth and weight problems to our children.’

The 108 signatories included five public health directors and the current and past presidents of the Faculty of Public Health.

The letter received no coverage in either Liverpool or Manchester.

Taxing sugary drinks

In 2018, the UK government will introduce an industry levy on full sugar soft drinks as part of its childhood obesity strategy.

‘It is of huge concern that no alternative views were provided in the face of a concerted commercial marketing campaign by Coca-Cola. Apparently Coca-Cola’s voice counts more than those of directors of public health.’

ROBIN IRELAND
Director of Food Active

Ireland believes that this form of advertising and marketing should be banned and will continue to push for national action to stop similar campaigns next Christmas.

Click here to read the editorial, ‘Happy corporate holidays from Coca-Cola’.