Dom Stroud refutes a proposal for warnings on soft drinks…
Three years ago, New Zealander Natasha Harris died of a cardiac arrest. Now, coroner David Crerar has delivered his verdict linking the consumption of Coca-Cola to her death, a claim that Coke unsurprisingly disputes. Perception of the matter changes somewhat when the fact that Ms Harris is said to have consumed six to ten litres of the drink a day is added to the equation. That’s like guzzling a 1kg bag of sugar and 970mg of caffeine – roughly equatable to about 11 and a half cans of Red Bull. In one day, don’t forget.
The coroner will be handing a copy of his findings to the Ministry of Health, recommending that it considers reinforcing warnings on fizzy drinks to ‘give sufficient protection to consumers’ and ensure potential dangers are ‘more clearly emphasised’.
Isn’t it obvious that such an incredibly high daily intake of sugars and caffeine would pose health problems? It’s alleged, according to the source article, that Ms Harris ‘believed that because there was no health warning on the bottle that it was safe to drink in any quantity’, at which point this surely becomes a question of diabolical food and health education rather than a labelling issue.
These types of proposals are almost always going to be overblown, targeting an unfortunate branch of an issue rather than its roots. The problem of excess is not restricted to ‘carbonated beverages’. If you ate the equivalent of Ms Harris’ Coca-Cola intake – yes, that full 1kg bag of sugar everyday – would that prompt warning labels on sugar? Do giant cakes warn that they will make you fat if you eat the entire thing in one sitting? Even over-consumption of water can kill; does that mean that Volvic, Buxton et al need to label their bottles? No, no it does not. All we need is to learn the value of a moderation.
What should happen, in this writer’s humble opinion, is that nutritional information charts and those handy traffic-light rating wheels should be made regulation under law. We don’t need warning labels, disclaimers or nannying advice, just the facts. I would hope that a road towards this is paved with common sense, rather than any knee-jerk silliness.