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‘No sugary drinks’ logo sends clear message

‘No sugary drinks’ logo sends clear message and empowers communities

New Zealand’s first “no sugary drinks logo” will be available for display in schools, businesses, workplaces, public spaces and event venues this week.
Marketing expert Dr Bodo Lang devised the logo for the health advocacy group FIZZ, of which he is a member. He says it will empower communities around New Zealand to lift their health and wellbeing and send a clear message about the damage caused by too much sugar in our diets.

FIZZ is a group of researchers and public health doctors pushing for a sugary-drink free Aotearoa New Zealand by 2025.

They say the evidence implicating sugary drinks in serious health problems, such as obesity, type-2 diabetes, rotten teeth and gout, is compelling enough to justify ending the sales of these products.

“The consequences of too much sugar in our diets are far-reaching and wide-ranging for both individuals and society, from harming our wellbeing and the learning of our children, to massive healthcare and productivity costs,” says Dr Bodo Lang, a senior lecturer in Marketing at the University of Auckland.

“We’re heartened to see examples of strong community leadership on this issue – a growing number of schools have banned sugary drinks and principals are reporting a sharp rise in learning behaviours and decrease in disruptive behaviours in the classroom. Auckland Council is phasing out sugar-sweetened drinks from vending machines at 15 council-operated leisure centres,” he says.

“Many organisations, events and leaders have asked for a logo that would allow them to show their commitment to being free of sugary drinks,” says Dr Lang.

“Just like the smokefree/auahi kore logo allowed people to draw a line in the sand against smoking, this new “no sugary drinks” logo will empower communities to lift their health and wellbeing. It’ll also send a clear message about the damage that excess sugar is causing.”

The logo will be revealed at the group’s third symposium, “Toward a sugary drink-free Aotearoa”, in Wellingtontomorrow, and then available with usage guidelines from the Fizz website.

Dr Lang says the symposium will share and celebrate progress made by individual schools and community groups, but also address policy change, which it says must include a tax on sugary drinks and a nationwide ban in schools.

“Education and information are useful, but research has shown that policy and regulation is needed to change behaviours at the scale and pace called for,” he says. “Smart policy and regulation can create a more health-promoting environment in which it’s easier, cheaper and more ‘normal’ to make the healthier choice.”

University of Auckland Law Professor Michael Littlewood (an authority on New Zealand tax law), and Morgan Foundation economist Geoff Simmons, will discuss the rationale for and likelihood of a tax on sugary drinks. Population Health Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu, also from the University of Auckland, will discuss research into the effectiveness of food taxes and plain packaging.

Public polling shows growing support for a tax on sugary drinks – up from 44 percent in February 2014 to 83 percent in a NZ Herald Poll earlier this year. At the symposium, Healthy Food Guide editor-in-chief Niki Bezzant, will discuss her petition calling for a tax on sugary drinks, signed by 7000 New Zealanders within two months of its launch.

FIZZ founder Dr Gerhard Sundborn, a research fellow at the University of Auckland, says in New Zealand, sugary drinks (including energy drinks, flavoured milk, cordial and soft drinks) contribute 26 percent of sugar in a child’s diet and about 20 percent in an adult’s diet.

New Zealanders, on average, consume about 54 kilograms of sugar per year. That is equivalent to 37 teaspoons of sugar per person per day - four times the recommended maximum by the American Heart Association, which advocates the 3-6-9 message: a maximum of three teaspoons of sugar per day for a child, six teaspoons for a women and nine teaspoons for a man.

"Sugary drinks are the single biggest products which put added sugar into our diet,” says Dr Sundborn. “That’s why we’re targeting them – they’re the big ticket item. Then hopefully people will start thinking about the hidden sugar in other parts of our diet.”

A study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal in February by Professor Tony Blakely, of the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, found a 20 percent tax on sugary soft drinks could prevent 67 deaths from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and diet-related cancers per year.

Dr Sundborn says a tax would also give beverage companies an incentive to invest further in sugar-free alternatives.

“We see the industry as a key part of the solution – working together we can achieve much more,” he says.

Coca Cola Country Manager Sandhya Pillay and Frucor Group CEO Jonathan Moss are both speaking at the symposium. Dr Sundborn applauds the two drink giants for introducing reduced-sugar products.

“Hopefully they will continue to grow their sugar-free product range and promote these as flagship products, replacing the original high-sugar versions.”


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