Global Health Organisations come together to curb Sugar-Linked diseases in kids

The George Institute for Global Health has joined hands with health groups around the world, calling on Coca Cola & PepsiCo to acknowledge the burden of sugar related diseases in Children and to stop hard-core marketing and advertising of the sugar sweetened beverages to them. The groups have written to the CEO’s of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo and also the companies’ major institutional investors in the run-up to Coca-Cola’s annual meeting on April 27 and PepsiCo’s on May 4. 

“While sugar-drink consumption in the United States and Europe has been declining, your company and others are investing billions of dollars annually to increase sales in low/middle-income countries Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America,” according to the letter. The lower income countries face steep and sometimes-unaffordable increases in the health-care costs associated with rising rates of type-2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other soda-related health problems, the groups say.

In February, Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released ‘Carbonating the World’, a report exposing the billions of dollars Coke and Pepsi are spending in such countries as Brazil, China, India, and Mexico to promote sugar-drink sales. CSPI said that the soda companies are following in the footsteps of tobacco companies, which, as cigarette sales in the United States plummeted, increased their marketing in the developing world. Gary Fayard, Coke’s chief financial officer, called the world’s 3.5 billion people in their teens and twenties the company’s “core demographic.” Coca-Cola has emerged as Africa’s top employer, according to the report.

The groups writing to Coke and Pepsi today are also urging the companies to reduce container sizes, include warning notices about adverse health effects on soda containers, reduce the calorie content of beverages to no more than 40 calories per 12 ounces, and stop fighting public health measures aimed at reducing soda consumption, such as taxes, warning labels, or marketing restrictions.

Dr. Vivekanand Jha, Executive Director, The George Institute for Global Health says, “Around 2 lac deaths occur every year due to sugar related diseases. The negative impact of sugar is a critical area to be worked upon and we are sure that with talks about imposing higher taxes on sugar items, we will be able to curb the consumption to a large extent. Excess sugar in the body causes multiple disorders and eventually leads to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, among other diseases. Children are the worst affected by these disorders as all marketing & advertising campaigns for the sugar sweetened beverages are targeted upon them.”

As per the reports by the Diabetes Foundation and Centre of Nutrition and Metabolic Research, in India, the per capita consumption of Sugary beverages has gone up by more than 5 times since 1998. This in itself shows the impact of the marketing being done by these companies in developing countries like India.

The George Institute for Global Health’s Alexandra Jones said: “There is growing science on the negative impact of excess sugar consumption on health. The scale of the problem can’t be blamed on individuals – we live in an environment where companies like Coke and Pepsi spend billions bombarding us with sophisticated advertising designed to maximize profits without respect for public health.”

“These companies are now aggressively moving into the less-regulated markets of developing countries with Coke investing $5bn US in India over the next few years. This will only worsen existing health problems associated with sugary drinks – rising levels of chronic illness, obesity and type 2 diabetes in countries that are already ill-equipped for the health fall out.”

The letter has been co-signed by some organisations like:

  • The George Institute for Global Health from Australia & India
  • Alliance for the Control of Tobacco Use and Health Promotion, Brazil
  • The Nutritional Health Alliance, Mexico
  • Australia & New Zealand Obesity Society
  • Centre for Science and Environment, India
  • World Obesity Federation
  • World Public Health Nutrition Association