Sugary sweet sell on health

28 January 2013 - 02:10 By Jackie May
Jackie May. File photo.
Jackie May. File photo.
Image: Times LIVE

Having a guilty-mother moment at a restaurant recently I decided to play fairy godmother and ordered each child a Fanta.

 A minute later, the quiet family evening was ruined. My three were the only children in the restaurant, and we now had no control over them - and with their tummies filled with coloured, flavoured liquid saturated with sugar, they wouldn't eat. They were happy. Excessively so, and could not be persuaded to sit on their seats.

My husband pointed out the list of contents on an empty can.

A 340ml Fanta can contains 41g of sugar, which explains the craziness in Smithfield on an otherwise dead-quiet summer evening. The same size can of Coca-Cola that sits on my desk right now, for research purposes, contains 35g of sugar - eight teaspoons. A can of Fanta contains about two more than that. This makes the adverts released last week by Coca-Cola, in which they congratulate themselves on their efforts to fight obesity, rather ironic.

We've all grown up with Coke. Its marketing campaign has successfully sold a life of fast fun. Coca-Cola is now the world's biggest fizzy drinks company.

Its new ad campaign is a defensive one. In the face of stringent regulations in New York to control the size of cold drinks and, in doing so, to control America's growing obesity problem, the company feels obliged to do its thing to encourage healthy living. (Yes, even in the land of fashion doyenne Anna Wintour, 58% of its residents are obese or overweight.)

On Saturday, a World Economic Forum "healthy living" meeting took place in Davos to try to align the food and health industries to become more health-conscious. Intriguing.

I find it hard to imagine how industries with the core purpose of making money by getting my children addicted to the stuff, will turn health-conscious. They are certainly not interested in the greater good. Obesity, a cause of diabetes and many heart issues, is a drag on economic growth, and a big expense for the public and private sectors.

Some are cynically sceptical. Head of a healthcare company, George Halvorson, said: "It's hard to get people to eat healthier, but we can get them to walk. All they need is shoes".

It was once hard to imagine that smoking was a health risk. Now you can't buy cigarettes without a big health warning on the box. So why not on a can of Coke?