Friday, 12 February 2016

Soda Industry Trends in Low and Middle Income Countries: New CSPI Report

Soda Industry Trends in Low and Middle Income Countries: New CSPI Report

Tactics employed by the tobacco industry in developed nations are being transferred over to the soda industry, according to the report ‘Carbonating the World’ released by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), in trying to replace a diminishing consumer base for sugar drinks in the USA by targeting developing countries.

Every year billions of dollars are spent annually on countries like China, India, Brazil, and Mexico to create distribution capacity, bottling plants and advertisement to increase sales. There are major links between these sugary drinks and tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, amongst others. Only limited steps by government have been taken towards regulating this industry.

The World Heart Federation, amongst other organizations share their support through a public letter in October last year, leading the Mexican Congress to vote in the Senate and lower House for the maintenance of a 10% excise on all sugary beverages.

The World Health Organization Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) released a report highlighting recommendations including taxes on sweetened non-alcoholic beverages on January 25, 2016.  Based on this report CSPI recommends that technical assistance for national health officials be provided by the WHO, helping them strengthen policies to discourage the consumption of soda drinks.

Francesco Branca of the WHO emphasized that ‘making policy changes to support this will be key if countries are to live up to their commitments to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases.”

After the WHO’s World Health Assembly adopted a set of global recommendations in 2010 to reduce marketing of non alcoholic beverages and foods high in sugars, salt, or fat for children, it now needs to push countries to implement the recommendations and implement actual standards.

Public health efforts should be the augmented in countries where consumption of sugar sweetened beverage is already high.

Countries must:

·         Make nutrition improvement a priority, and work towards inter-ministerial coordination for priority area including curtailing the sale of sugar sweetened beverages
·         Undertake large scale, well-funded mass-media campaigns around diets focused around children, parents, and healthcare providers to discourage sugar sweetened beverage consumption
·         Barring advertisement and sale of these products (and other unhealthy foods) to children in school settings, including on the internet, television, signages, and other mobile and print media.
·         Place tax (excise) on sugar drinks which would lead to increase prices of at least 10-20%. These revenues could be used towards education and media campaigns, in addition to promote healthy diets.

Separate guidelines for restaurants, civil society organizations, and beverage companies have been also strongly encouraged, dealing with this in a preventive approach to curtail the burgeoning rise of chronic diseases.

The WHO should also push for:

·         Training at regional offices to strengthen policy and legal frameworks
·         Establish a database of regulations globally and analyze cost-benefit
·         Provide technical assistance to all countries including fact sheets, check lists, and other tool kits to follow
·         Consult on the development of an international legal instrument to establish global standards on marketing and labeling of sugar
·         Support research on the legislative effectiveness for discouraging youth consumption, strengthening the evidence base for action
·         Set an example by banning sugar drinks from its premises

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