HAYLEY GASTMEIER, BECKIE WILSON and CHELSEA BOYLE
One of the country’s top dentists says schools, hospitals and local councils should be taking the lead in banishing sugary drinks.
Sweetened beverages cause 99 per cent of children’s dental problems, and are bad for health in general, New Zealand Dental Association spokesman Rob Beaglehole says.
“Sugary drinks are the new tobacco in terms of the way we need to deal with it,” he told the Times-Age yesterday.
He said councils should be adopting a new policy put forward by Local Government New Zealand – which would be “part of the puzzle” in combatting the issue.
Last week, 61 per cent of council delegates at LGNZ’s annual general meeting voted in favour of a ‘Sugar sweetened beverage policy’ remit, encouraging councils to ditch sweet beverages from their respective worksites and functions.
Both South Wairarapa and Carterton district councils voted against the policy, while Masterton District Council was in support.
South Wairarapa Mayor Viv Napier said the council’s stance was based on its discussion at the last council meeting.
In June, councillor Lee Carter said it was up to the individual to use “common sense” when it came to their own sugar intake, while Pam Colenso said consuming sugary beverages was “a personal choice”.
Despite the council being against the policy, Mrs Napier was not yet ruling out adopting it.
Mrs Napier was overseas when her council discussed the remits, and although she “understood” where her councillors were coming from, she was “personally in favour” of council showing some leadership.
CDC Mayor John Booth said the council would not be implementing the remit.
“We are not going to be telling people what to do,” he said.
“We are really aware of the downside of too much sugar and the damage it does, and I think there is enough evidence out there for people to work it out for themselves that it is damaging, and to be sensible about it.”
Mr Booth said there was a generally responsible attitude towards sugar and CDC were already leading by example.
The council was very conscious of what beverages they offered at council events, and there was “only tea, coffee and water” on offer at meetings.
Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said even though her council supported the remit, they would have to discuss it before it could be implemented.
Dr Beaglehole said sugary drinks were the number one source of sugar intake for Kiwis aged up to 30.
“The core of the issue is kids drinking it, and if councils would just wake up and focus on the pain and suffering these things are causing, then it’s a lot easier for the mayor and councillors to adopt it.”
Hospitals were moving in the right direction by preventing sweet drink sales, and many DHBs had already moved to a water-only policy.
Politicians and councillors should be setting a good example to youth, he said.
The World Health Organisation’s guideline on sugar intake for adults and children recommended no more than six teaspoons of sugar a day, with a typical can of soft drink containing about eight teaspoons.
The LGNZ remit was proposed by Hastings District Council, in a bid to encourage behavioural change in the community.
Schools ahead of the game
Some Wairarapa schools are taking the lead against the health issue with a blanket ban on all sugary drinks.
South Featherston School adopted a “water only” policy last year.
Principal Tana Klaricich said she was surprised to find the school had sugar drinks on offer when she took up the role in May, 2016.
Even though the beverages were labelled as containing 70 per cent less sugar than many soft drinks, she had them abolished as she “felt it was not a good thing to encourage those drinks at school”.
The school also ceased sales of flavoured milk.
Now the school only allowed water.
Mrs Klaricich said if students were found to have beverages other than water it was confiscated and returned to them at the end of day, “for them to drink at home”.
Masterton Primary School principal and Masterton Principals Cluster President Sue Walters said it was up to each individual school to encourage the move away from sugary drinks.
“We certainly don’t encourage it . . . we provide all our kids with milk every day and we try to keep it to water only,” she said.
It was easier to “police” sugary-drink intakes with children in years one to six, compared to intermediate and secondary school-aged children, she said.