Big sugary drinks took a hit last week in North America’s battle against obesity.
New York City’s board of health passed a rule banning sales of sodas larger than 473 millilitres at restaurants, concession stands and other eateries – but customers with a sweet tooth in the Capital Region could be the next to notice a menu change.
Never one to be left out of the discussion on health regulations, Vancouver Island Health Authority’s chief medical health officer Dr. Richard Stanwick – an outspoken leader in the successful campaigns to ban public smoking, idling vehicles and teens using tanning beds within the CRD – is considering what local action could be taken to regulate consumption of high-calorie drinks.
“This is a concern,” Stanwick said. “We do know the contribution of a sugary diet to overall obesity rates and a bunch of other things, including diabetes.”
Rather than lobbying for a cap on portion sizes, a better approach, Stanwick said, might involve regulating amounts of sugar within products, similar to the province’s move to restrict trans fats in 2009.
Emblazoning packaging with a symbol indicating the amount of sugar in sweetened drink is one option VIHA’s medical health officers have considered and may bring forward in the future, he said. A single 473 ml drink (slightly more than a regular can of pop at 355 ml) may contain as many as 16 teaspoons of sugar.
Quoting the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Stanwick points to the tripling of obesity rates in 12-to 17-year-olds since 1980.
“Clearly we have our work cut out for us,” Stanwick said. “This is an issue that’s on the radar of every medical health officer in the province.”