76 litres a year of sugary drinks is ‘way too much’

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

23 November 2016

Government action is urgently needed to curb the consumption of sugary drinks in Australia, according to the nation’s leading public healthcare body, the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA).

The Association released a position statement on sugar-sweetened drinks today (Wednesday 23 November) at the National Primary Health Care Conference in Melbourne.

‘Our consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is among the highest in the world, with Australians and New Zealanders consuming an average of 76 litres of these drinks per person every year—that’s simply way too much’, said AHHA Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven.

‘Obesity is now the leading cause of preventable death or illness in Australia, even more so than smoking.

‘Nearly two-thirds of all adults in Australia are overweight or obese, which is a substantial increase on 38% in 1989–90. Excess consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks may be responsible for about one-fifth of the average weight gain among Australians over the last 25 years. The other main causes are consumption of energy-dense nutrient-poor foods, and a lack of exercise.

‘Sugar-sweetened drinks such as cordials, soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, fruit and vegetable drinks, and fortified waters, are a major source of sugar in Australian diets, while not being of essential nutritional benefit. Consumption of these drinks has been clearly associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, tooth erosion and decay, and bone density problems.

‘We therefore call on the Australian Government and the state and territory governments, as a matter of urgency, to develop and fund evidence‑based measures aimed at reducing consumption of these drinks’, said Ms Verhoeven.

‘This could include taxing sugar-sweetened beverages; restricting sales in hospitals and schools; stronger advertising restrictions, especially during children’s television viewing times; mandatory front‑of‑package ‘healthy star’ labelling; and public awareness campaigns.

‘Sugar-sweetened drink taxes have already been introduced in Mexico, France, Norway, Chile, Finland, Hungary, St Helena, Mauritius, French Polynesia, Samoa, Tonga and 33 states in the USA. The UK is introducing a 20% sugar tax in April 2018. And a report released today by the Grattan Institute sets out options and recommendations for such a tax.

‘The early signs are that increased taxation has led to reductions in the purchase of sugary drinks as well as reductions in the sugar content of drinks produced by drink manufacturers.

‘Any revenue raised should be used to fund preventive health measures proven to work in improving diet and increasing physical activity’, said Ms Verhoeven.

Read more: http://ahha.asn.au/sites/default/files/docs/policy-issue/ahha_position_statement_-_sugar_sweetened_beverage.pdf

For more information on the AHHA, visit http://ahha.asn.au.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, Primary Health Networks, community and primary healthcare services, and advocates for universal, high quality and affordable healthcare to benefit the whole community.