Dr Robert Beaglehole demonstrates how much sugar is in a 1.25l bottle of Coke.

Giving kids fizzy is ‘neglect’

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Giving sugary drinks to children should be classed as neglect, says the head of the region’s district health board.

Chris Fleming, the chief executive of the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board, made the comments in an email to leaders of government departments and other organisations to encourage them to introduce a ban on sugar-free drinks.

Nelson City Council and the DHB have already introduced a policy banning the sale of sugary drinks at events they run and premises they manage, and Chris says he’d like to see other organisations adopt a similar policy.

“The damage that sugar-sweetened beverages is doing to our children, from both an oral health and an obesity perspective, is simply unacceptable,” wrote Chris. “Personally, I think that providing our children with access to these products should be seen as neglect.”

The email was sent to those in various organisations, including Sport Tasman, Tasman District Council, Police, Department of Conservation, Primary Health Organisation, Ministry of Education, Department of Internal Affairs, Work and Income, NMIT, IRD and several others.

He says that he’d like to see local schools also adopt the policy and stood by his statements when questioned by Nelson Weekly.

“Neglect is a harsh word, but if you understand the implications it’s having on the oral health standards and the obesity issue, I think we need to be aware of what we’re subconsciously giving our children,” he says.

“When you see the photos of young kids and their teeth, it’s just appalling and completely unnecessary.”

Chris says he’d like to see all schools ban sugary drinks on their premises and for the top of the south to take the lead on the issue.

Birchwood School principal, Chris Herrick, says he would not look to bring a ban on the drinks to his school because very few students bring sugary drinks to school. “We promote healthy lifestyles and healthy options and would rather educate than put a ban in place.”

But, he says, the school did recently ban sugary drinks at its school disco, which is held twice a year, in favour of healthier options.