Tuesday 5 December 2017

Brent Council take on the Coca Cola sugary drinks juggernaut amidst fear for children's health

The Coca Cola truck has become a regular feature of Christmas at the London Design Outlet in Wembley Park but concern has been voiced about the marketing of sugar drinks aimed at children in an era of rising rates of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.  LINK

This year rather than joining in publicising the visit due on Friday,  Brent Council, in David and Goliath mode, have written to Coca Cola asking them to limit their giving out of free drinks to diet and zero sugar drinks instead of the usual Coke that has the equivalent of 9 teaspoonfuls of sugar in a 330ml can. 

In pleading for the multi-national company, who long ago incorporated Santa Claus into their advertising, to act responsibly for the benefit of children, Brent Council point to the fact that nearly half of children in the borough aged 11 are overweight or obese. Although tooth decay in the borough have been reduced recently there is still much to do to tackle the problem.

Coca Cola all part of consumerism for the LDO

Some councils and health authorities have called for the trucks to be banned completely.Accompanied by lights and music, in vivid red, they are clearly aimed at children who find their lure irresistible.

Cllr Krupesh Hirani, Brent Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing said:

It’s great to see Coca-Cola getting into the festive spirit once again. However, in a borough where nearly half of 11-year-olds are overweight there is an obvious concern that there is this focus on encouraging children to consume what is a highly-sugary drink.

Mums and dads in Brent have enough of a challenge to keep their children healthy and we hope that with a little bit of responsible marketing and one small change, Coca-Cola can be a part of the solution to Brent’s obesity issues, rather than part of the problem.

With nine teaspoons of sugar in each 330ml can of Coca-Cola, their flagship product clearly has a negative impact on people’s health. With obesity and diabetes levels so high in the Borough, we are calling on Coca Cola to stop promoting their sugary drinks to our residents. They are entitled to market their products and we are calling on them to promote their diet and zero sugar drinks instead.


Scott said...

Virtue signalling from Cllr Krupesh Hirani - If Labour were really concerned about the health & wellbeing of young people, they wouldn't have cut over £1.2m from youth services (- inc forcing Stonebridge Adventure Playground to close).

As UNISON point out youth services help young people find their way in society, gain employment, get an education, avoid mental health issues, and make a positive contribution to their communities. Putting exercise to one side, all of these (if unsupported) are risk factors of poverty... which, is holds a much stronger correlation with obesity or childhood malnutrition than a yearly visit by a coca-cola truck.

Martin Francis said...

Although I take your point about cuts in youth services, particularly Stoneb ridge which served the full age range of children, I don't think we can let Coca Cola off the hook. This is a marketing ploy to establish long-term consumption habits by associating their product with the positive vibes of Christmas. I have seen the problem of childhood obesity myself in our primary schools. 2016 figures were 10.5% obesity in 4-5 year olds and 24.1% in 10-11 year olds. Having had three hospital stays in the last 8 months I can vouch for how many of the patients were diabetics. Anything that can challenge the marketing of unhealthy food and drink to children is welcome.

Martin Francis said...

PS German sweet manufacturer Haribo are to open a shop in the LDO, much promoted by Cllr Butt! https://www.propertyweek.com/haribo-to-open-first-uk-outlet-at-ldo/5093449.article

Scott said...

I'm not a fan of Coca-Cola, given the excess water consumption to create it, the impact of this upon water poor countries & the range of allegations of abuse & mistreatment of union officials and workers in its factories across the world.

I also recognise & agree with the issues of obesity in childhood you mention, but take umbrage with Cllr Hirani & our Labour council jumping on this to detract from their inaction on the issue of childhood obesity - given the power that is invested within local authorities to make a difference.

If our councillors were serious about tackling childhood obesity, I'd expect to hear from them what they were doing about our local infrastructure and planning to make a positive environment for walking or cycling. I'd expect to see changes to residential and urban development that promoted Green spaces & not the concrete jungles of Quintain.

Whilst the councils actions on air pollution with regard to cars 'idling' outside school gates is welcome - to idle or not still indicates a low energy journey - where is their help for schools to develop travel policies that parents can feel are safe.
Stats from Transport for London also indicate that Brent has one of the lowest Public Transport Accessibility Score's across London. Many of the stations also lack an escalator or a lift so pose particular challenges for people with disabilities.

Brent's own health & physical activity strategy indicates that participation in physical activity is the lowest across the West London Boroughs. (https://www.brent.gov.uk/media/16404575/a-physical-activity-strategt-for-brent-2016-2021.pdf). It also shows that over 40% of Brent resident's aren't satisfied with leisure facilities in Brent. Then there's the reports within Wembley Matters that the council are planning to neglect parks in the borough under the PR/Spin of 'meadowing' which will make them less enjoyable places to visit. Each of these indicate a failing strategy that Cllr Hirani as cabinet member for Wellbeing should take some responsibility for as it is within his Portfolio.

So, I think its the hypocrisy that bothers me - e.g. I also understand that Coca-Cola is the official sponsor & soft drink supplier to Wembley Stadium... the Labour Councillors take up free tickets to attend concerts or football matches there & have never said anything before about it or let it spoil their fun. Yet they'll want to load societal issues upon children & young people within a season of over consumption who just want a bit of excitement seeing a Lorry from a popular (& now traditional) advert.

For nearly 100 years now Coca-Cola promoted and have been given credit for popularising an image of a very famous man, dressed in Red that runs counter to the ideals of public health. Norad says this man, often known as Santa, St Nic or Father Christmas is 117 kgs and is 5’7, giving him a BMI of higher than 40 (which is categorised as severely obese). Haven't seen Cllr Krupesh Hirani out with the public safety information & pitchforks about him yet :D

Sandro said...

Your never too old for Haribo, one of my little vices every so often although with Coke I only touch occasionally Coke Zero with no sugar. Interesting to read in the above link how 99% of the spaces are now let at the LDO. These last remaining companies must be getting extremely good deals to place themselves at the LDO as the management of the site certainly don't want to see any unoccupied spaces to let.