Ex­perts call for ban on Coca-Cola Christ­mas truck tour

South Wales Echo - - NEWS -

THE Coca-Cola Christ­mas truck tour should be banned, pub­lic health ex­perts say.

The lorry last year vis­ited Queen Street in Cardiff – while the 2015 visit to the cap­i­tal was over­shad­owed by huge queues when it vis­ited Asda in Co­ry­ton.

But the vis­its have proved con­tro­ver­sial, with health vis­i­tors and den­tal nurses at Abertawe Bro Mor­gan­nwg Univer­sity (ABMU) Health Board last Novem­ber ex­press­ing con­cerns over its im­pact on chil­dren’s den­tal health.

Now more medics have added their voices to those ar­gu­ments, say­ing the bright red truck – which made 44 stops across the UK as part of a na­tion­wide tour last Christ­mas – pro­motes the con­sump­tion of un­healthy sug­ary drinks, par­tic­u­larly to chil­dren.

Writ­ing in the Bri­tish Med­i­cal Jour­nal, Robin Ire­land, di­rec­tor of Food Ac­tive, a cam­paign which wants to tackle ris­ing obe­sity lev­els, and John Ash­ton, a pub­lic health con­sul­tant, said Co­caCola was in­tent on shap­ing pub­lic opin­ion through its mar­ket­ing tech­niques.

It said the com­pany wants to “frame the de­bate around healthy weight” by spon­sor­ing events, fund­ing com­mu­nity sports ac­tiv­i­ties and rais­ing funds to dis­trib­ute food for peo­ple in need. Yet a sin­gle can of Coca-Cola con­tains seven tea­spoons of sugar, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion on the Coca-Cola web­site.

The ex­perts wrote: “At Christ­mas, Coca-Cola’s mar­ket­ing goes into over­drive as news­pa­pers across the coun­try re­gur­gi­tate press re­leases for its Christ­mas truck tour, with ad­ver­to­ri­als pro­mot­ing the truck as a Christ­mas tra­di­tion. And of course the truck is just the lat­est of Coca-Cola’s cam­paigns to be­come a hol­i­day brand and, in­deed, to help brand Santa Claus him­self.”

Five pub­lic health direc­tors and mem­bers of the Fac­ulty of Pub­lic Health, among oth­ers, signed a let­ter say­ing: “We can cel­e­brate with­out al­low­ing Coca-Cola to hi­jack Christ­mas by bring­ing false gifts of bad teeth and weight prob­lems to our chil­dren.”

They added: “Should this form of ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing be banned, given the grow­ing ev­i­dence of the ef­fect that mar­ket­ing of un­healthy food and drink has on chil­dren? We be­lieve it should and will con­tinue to push for na­tional ac­tion from or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Pub­lic Health Eng­land to stop sim­i­lar cam­paigns next Christ­mas.”

In Novem­ber, den­tal nurse and ABMU lead for the De­signed to Smile chil­dren’s den­tal pro­gramme, Mandy Silva, said: “The Coca-Cola truck is fast be­com­ing a Christ­mas icon as our towns and cities give the go-ahead for it to tour around, hand­ing out free sam­ples. We don’t want to spoil any­one’s fun, but it’s not fun to have de­cayed teeth ei­ther. We want chil­dren and young peo­ple to en­joy Christ­mas with healthy smiles.”

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