“Coca-Cola Christmas truck is not welcome in Cumbria”

“Coca-Cola Christmas truck is not welcome in Cumbria”

A local newspaper the Time and Star published an article last week titled “Coca-Cola Christmas truck told to stay away from Cumbria – and not come back”

The article comes as the Director of Public Health at Cumbria County Council Colin Cox and Council Lead Stewart Young both signed the open-letter to Coca-Cola from Sugar Smart, co-ordinated by Food Active in November. Whilst the truck was not planned to visit Cumbria this year, both signed the letter on the grounds that we should not be welcoming this marketing stunt into our towns and cities given the current obesity crisis – in Cumbria, over 1/4 of reception aged children are overweight or obese, 4.5% greater than the national average [1].

In the article, Colin Cox is quoted:

“Excessive sugar consumption is one of the major public health challenges of our time, leading to high rates of obesity particularly in childhood.

“The Coca-Cola truck may seem like a bit of festive fun but it is actually a high profile marketing campaign for a sugar syrup that is contributing to our very worrying rates of childhood obesity”

Stewart Young also said:

“The way it is marketed, children find it very attractive. It is almost like Santa coming. That’s how it is promoted. There’s a clear attempt to conflate the two. It’s clever marketing,”

“Yet we are facing this obesity epidemic and the real consequences won’t be seen until much later on, when children grow up. We are heading for serious public health problems.”

Cumbria were one of the 6 local authorities in the North West to sign the open letter to Coca-Cola, urging them to rethink their Christmas marketing campaign and market more responsibly to children. Following this letter signed nationally by 29 Directors of Public Health, Council Leads and Food Groups, there was significant media coverage across the country and was later followed by Public Health England releasing guidance to local authorities on Christmas promotions, such as the Coca-Cola truck. Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, was quoted in the Guardian (29.11.2017):

“Local authorities celebrating sugary drinks in this way need to reflect on whether it’s in the best interests of the health of local children and families.”

Alison Tedstone, Director of Obesity at Public Health England also wrote in a blog:

“The link between childhood obesity and deprivation is well established and it’s important to note the (Coca-Cola) truck will be visiting some of our poorest areas”

Over the last couple of years, Food Active has raised questions about welcoming the Coca-Cola truck to our towns and cities, given the amount of money and hard work spent by public health to reduce children’s sugar consumption. We published an editorial in the BMJ in early 2017 and gained over 100 signatures from health professionals, Directors of Public Health and parents opposing the truck’s arrival in 2016.

It is great to see the conversation continuing and we hope in times to come more can be done to prevent the truck from . Well done to Cumbria and all other North West local authorities who signed the open letter with Food Active and Sugar Smart.

To read the full article from the Time and Star, follow this link.

 

[1] Public Health England. (2017). NCMP Local Authority Profile Data [online]. Available at: https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/national-child-measurement-programme/data#page/0 [Accessed: 15th December 2017].


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