Monday 29 December 2014

We need zero tolerance for fizzy drinks in schools

Editorial

Published 02/09/2014 | 02:30

There needs to be a zero tolerance attitude to soft drinks in schools
There needs to be a zero tolerance attitude to soft drinks in schools

The Education Minister, Jan O'Sullivan, is clearly wrong in not adopting a zero-tolerance attitude to fizzy drinks in schools.

This should not only extend to pupils bringing such drinks to schools in their lunchboxes, but particularly to vending machines in schools.

Whatever the merits of enjoying such 'soft' drinks, it is not right that they should be dispensed in schools and the minister should have made that very clear from the beginning of her ministerial term.

Asked about this issue yesterday, just after the start of the new school year for primary school children, Ms O'Sullivan answered: "Banning things can be difficult and it doesn't necessarily stop practices."

We are all too aware of the 'nanny state' and calls to ban this and that, but clearly dispensing fizzy drinks in schools is not right.

Of course, it may not lead to an overnight conversion to healthier living for the nation's schoolchildren, but it would send a clear message that schools have healthy priorities, and dispensing drinks with multiple spoonfuls of sugar is not one of them.

The Irish medical community has called on the Government to regulate the food and drinks industry, especially that part of it which specifically, and some doctors argue cynically, targets children with high-fat, high-salt and high-sugar products.

The food and drinks industry is not totally responsible for the epidemic of obesity sweeping the Western world, including Ireland, but it is certainly contributing to it in a major way, despite its argument that advertising is targeted at children over 12 years of age.

Parents, too, need to take responsibility for the food and drink consumed by their children, and for the lack of exercise that can and does contribute to the plague of obesity that is now creeping up on society.

Banning such products from school corridors and assembly rooms will certainly help parents to make healthier choices and, as an expert writing in this paper today maintains, help in some way towards keeping children "free of the influence of the personalised pedalling by manufacturers".

Irish Independent

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