Heart Foundation says drinks’ industry obesity pledge not strong enough

The Heart Foundation says the recent announcement of a new drinks’ industry plan to fight childhood obesity needs to go further to focus on the reduction of all sugary drinks in secondary schools.

The new agreement focuses on the supply of beverages in schools and surrounding areas. It is an update of the 2007 agreement when major beverage companies stopped selling full-sugar soft drinks in schools.

“These companies have now agreed to sell only water at primary and intermediate schools, which is great but quite simply the beverage agreement doesn’t go far enough. With more than a third of our children now overweight or obese, New Zealand really needs much stronger action on sugary drinks at secondary school level, including high sugar fruit drinks, sports drinks and fruit juices, which still dominate the menu,” says Heart Foundation Food and Nutrition Manager Dave Monro.

“We know secondary schools and their canteens are areas that need a lot more focus, and adolescents have more money to spend on sugary drinks than younger children.

“It’s disappointing the beverage industry did not seize this opportunity to encourage water and reduce the amount of sugar going into secondary schools. Through the nutrition work we do in New Zealand schools we still see a lot of high-sugar beverages sold in secondary schools.”

All schools should be water only

Monro says the Heart Foundation would like all schools to phase out sugary drinks and move to water only, with support from the beverage industry.

The Heart Foundation supports the announcement by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education which asked schools to supply only water and milk by the end of 2016.

However, schools have not reached that target. Figures from the Auckland University's School-FERST study show that 90% of secondary and 65% of intermediate schools are still selling sugary drinks. Primary schools are doing much better, but are still well below target at 30%.

Monro also points out that beverage companies are only one part of the puzzle and that boards of trustees, school canteens and their suppliers, school staff, and parents all have a role in supporting a healthy food supply in their school.

“We will continue to work with these stakeholders including beverage companies and suppliers to encourage less sugar going into schools and ultimately more schools going water only.

“Equally, beverages aren’t a standalone problem and schools need to develop an approach that involves both a healthy food and a healthy drink environment.”

For more information on how to improve school environments to focus on healthy food and drinks visit www.fuelled4life.org.nz