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  • Landmark Rethink Sugary Drink Forum to Drive Appetite for Consumer Change

    02 October 2013

    Media Release - Cancer Council Australia
     

    • Leading health organisations join forces to discuss sugary drink consumption for the first time amid growing concern of health impacts
    • Launch of new ‘drinking fat’ ad to highlight the association between sugary drink and weight gain 
    • Australian Dental Association and Nutrition Australia join Rethink Sugary Drink campaign

    Leading public health experts and community organisations are gathering in Melbourne today at a landmark forum to discuss the growing health risks associated with Australians’ high consumption of sugary drinks and to discuss policy options to reduce consumption. 

    The Rethink Sugary Drink forum comes amid a recent move by soft drink companies to publicly position themselves as ‘part of the obesity solution’ via expensive advertising and PR spin campaigns.

    Rethink Sugary Drink is a partnership between Cancer Council Australia, Diabetes Australia and Heart Foundation (Victoria), and aims to raise awareness of the amount of sugar in sugar-sweetened beverages and to encourage Australians to reduce their consumption.

    The high consumption of sugary drinks is widely recognised as an emerging issue by some of Australia’s leading health groups due to its link to overweight and obesity and tooth decay. Since Rethink Sugary Drink launched in early 2013, Nutrition Australia and the Australian Dental Association have come on board as official campaign supporters.

    According to research by the Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research at Deakin University, children who consume more than one serving (250mL) of sugary drink per day are 26 per cent more likely to be overweight or obese.  The 2007 Australian National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey found that 47% of children (2 to 16 years of age) consumed sugar sweetened beverages (including energy drinks) every day.

    According to Craig Sinclair, Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s Public Health Committee, with nearly 25 per cent of children and more than 60 per cent of adults in Australia overweight or obese, it is vital that we start to investigate approaches to reduce a key contributor to excess kilojoules in diets.

    “We have reached a point where sugary drinks are considered an everyday staple as opposed to an occasional treat. Promotion by beverage companies through new media and traditional channels is relentless and it’s easier to find a bottle of soft drink than a water tap. We need to change the status quo,” he said.

    “Improving people’s awareness of the amount of sugar and kilojoules in these drinks is important but it needs to be backed up with good policy. It’s hard to encourage people to drink water if once they venture out of home it’s impossible to find a water tap or a vending machine that isn’t full of sugary drinks.

    “But right now, momentum seems to be building for change within organisations, and communities are seeking support to create healthier environments. It’s time for government, community-based organisations and workplaces to start looking at policies to facilitate change,” he said.

    Cancer Council Australia, Diabetes Australia and Heart Foundation (Victoria) have released a series of policy recommendations to reduce sugary drink consumption. The organisations recommend restrictions on marketing sugary drinks to children and reducing availability in children’s settings such as schools and sports centres, an investigation into tax options as well as reducing availability in workplaces, government institutions and healthcare settings. 

    Obesity is a major cause of a range of chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, and sugar-sweetened drinks are known to be a major contributor to the problem.

    Evidence also shows that consumption of sugary drinks increases the risk of tooth decay and erosion.

    “Sugar-sweetened beverages produce more acid when the sugar combines with bacteria in the mouth, and this acid causes damage to the tooth structure,” explained Dr Karin Alexander, Federal President of the Australian Dental Association.

    “The Australian Dental Association is committed to improving Australians’ oral and general health, and for this to be possible the consumption of sugar sweetened-beverages must be significantly reduced.”

    A new TV advertisement for the Rethink Sugary Drink campaign will be launched at today’s forum. The ad shows a man drinking a can of fat, representative of what will happen if the extra kilojoules consumed through sugar-sweetened drinks are not burnt off. The ad has been licensed from the New York City Department of Health and tailored for an Australian audience, and will run on popular social media sites YouTube and Facebook throughout October.

    Today’s forum will be co-hosted by Cancer Council Victoria, Diabetes Australia, Heart Foundation (Victoria), Nutrition Australia, the Australian Dental Association and the Obesity Policy Coalition. Discussion points will focus on the health impacts of sugary drink on the population, policy options to reduce consumption, and challenges faced by businesses when going sugary drink free.

    Presentations will be shared by leading health experts including Professor Amanda Lee, Professor in Public Health and Nutrition Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Chair NHMRC Dietary Guidelines Working Committee, and Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition. New data on sugar-sweetened beverage consumption will be unveiled by the Victorian Department of Health.
     

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