Blanket ban on sugary drinks for kids 'unfair'

Orange wedges at sporting matches have largely been replaced by energy drinks, soft drinks and lollies, according to an Illawarra health expert.

Andre, Luca and Jorge Karakousis enjoy a rare sugary treat together. Picture: DAVE TEASE

Andre, Luca and Jorge Karakousis enjoy a rare sugary treat together. Picture: DAVE TEASE

But while the shift in consumption is "a definite concern", a blanket ban isn't the answer.

"Ultimately we wouldn't want kids to consume unhealthy beverages, but it's really unrealistic to say parents should ban kids from ever drinking these products," said Dr Samantha Thomas, the UOW senior visiting fellow at the centre for health initiatives.

She was responding to calls from Queensland's chief health officer for parents to ban children from having soft drinks and fruit juice until at least high school, in order to halt increasing obesity.

"This advice is probably well-intentioned, but it is unfair to single out parents and place all responsibility on them to monitor everything their children consume," Dr Thomas said.

"There needs to be a balance between parental responsibility and, more importantly, industry taking responsibility for the fact that a lot of these products are directly targeted and marketed at young people.

"They target them regularly and they target them without parents knowing. Because of that, drinking these products has become normalised," she said.

"It is unfair to just call for parents to ban it. We need a much broader response from the community, particularly in regards to their alignment with healthy activities such as local sport."

Linda Karakousis said she tried to limit soft drinks in the home, explaining it was not something her three boys, Jorge, 10, Andre, 8, and Luca, 5 had on a regular basis.

"At home they mostly drink water. If we are out at a party or at diner for a special occasion and it gets offered then they are allowed to have it but it's not an every day thing," the Thirroul mother said.

"I feel the same about juice. If they do have juice I will mix it so it's half juice and half water."

Ms Karakousis said she saw the merit in banning kids from such drinks until high school, particularly considering the health issues that young people face such as weight and dental decay.

"But I definitely think it's up to the individual parents to decide those kinds of things."

A NSW Ministry of Health spokesman said that since 2007, government schools have banned the sale of sugar-sweetened drinks in an effort to combat rising childhood obesity levels.

Australian Beverages Council chief executive Geoff Parker said "a ban on fruit juice or any other beverage for that matter is a simplistic, knee-jerk reaction that fails to address the bigger issue".


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