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Ban will be a fizzer if diet drinks not included

3 September 2006

Ban will be a fizzer if diet drinks not included

Any plans to rid schools of fizzy drinks must also include removing diet sodas with unhealthy and addictive additives, the Green Party says.

"An agreement to remove sugary soft drinks from schools in Australia was announced yesterday and we understand that that the beverage industry is working on a similar voluntary agreement here. This is great news, but to allow the continued sale of surgery cordials or diet drinks in schools would encourage children to switch to equally sweet, nutritionless, enamel-destroying soft drinks with addictive and controversial additives in them," Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"I know drink manufacturers want to keep their sugar free 'diet' drinks in schools to help maintain brand awareness amongst students, but we must put the health of our children first. The United Kingdom has removed all fizzy drinks from schools, France has banned vending machines entirely; we want New Zealand to follow suit."

Ms Kedgley is writing to Coca Cola and Pepsi, the biggest soft drink companies in New Zealand, appealing to them to voluntarily remove diet as well as sugar-filled fizzy drinks from schools.

"Sugar free 'diet' drinks don't contain sugar and that's great. But they are nutritionally empty, and many contain caffeine, a mildly addictive substance, which affects the nervous system; can make children hyperactive, irritable and anxious, and can adversely affect bone health. A can of diet coke contains approximately 45mg of caffeine. Children are particularly sensitive to caffeine's stimulating effects.

"Diet fizzy drinks keep children hooked on fizzy drinks and displace the drinking of water and milk. They are also highly acidic and can damage tooth enamel and contribute to dental disease. This is a serious public health concern with new research showing the dental health of New Zealand children is continuing to deteriorate.

"Diet drinks may also contain controversial additives like aspartame, which has been linked cancer in animals. It has been linked to a wide range of adverse reactions in humans as well, including migraines and rashes.

"I am also concerned that some diet drinks contain combinations of additives (sodium benzoate and citric acid) which may result in residues of benzene, a carcinogen.

"Given these risks to children's health, it would be irresponsible to promote diet drinks in schools. We need to encourage children to switch to water and milk instead. Schools are a great place to encourage children to make healthy choices,, and we must follow the United Kingdom and other countries in removing fizzy drinks and sweet cordials from the school environment."

ENDS

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