The Greens party has called for a complete ban on sugary fizzy drinks in schools not just taking out the toxic drinks alone. This came after the announcement of Australian beverage companies to pull out all sugar-sweetened drinks from primary schools, leaving only diet versions.
According to health spokeswoman Sue Kedgley the proposed ban will be a fizzer, unless it goes all the way.
Health Minister Pete Hodgson in a bid to help curb the worsening child obesity crisis, has stated that he wants all New Zealand schools free of soft drinks by 2008. This move that is believed to be a spoke in the wheel of the drinks companies, has resulted in confidential talks between the soft drink giants and the ministers of health and education.
An announcement is "expected shortly". Coca-Cola will make a submission to the parliamentary select committee on obesity on Wednesday.
Greens party health spokeswoman Sue Kedgley said that beverage companies could try to forestall any government ban by withdrawing full-sugar drinks in favor of "diet" sodas.
She said, "They are determined to maintain their `brand awareness' in schools, and keep kids hooked on that sugary taste."
Kedgley says that even diet sodas ate highly acidic causing tooth decay as well as brimming with controversial additives such as aspartame.
She added, "A can of Diet Coke contains about 45mg of caffeine and some kids are drinking two or three cans a day. That's a hell of a lot of caffeine, and that's why we're getting hyped-up, anxious children."
She opined that New Zealand should follow the example of Britain and other countries in banning fizzy drinks and sweet cordials from schools.
However, a few cash-strapped schools could ill afford to lose a valuable source of revenue. Kedgley said one Hamilton high school told her it had made $10,000 a year from its vending machine before deciding to get rid of it.
Dental Therapists' Association president Karen Boyce-Bacon said a ban on soft drinks in schools would be welcome by them.
"The problem is that soft drinks are so cheap, especially compared with milk.
"In lower socio-economic areas in particular, this is what people are giving their children to sip all day."
However, the Food Industry Group, representing Coca-Cola and other high-profile brands, stated that a total ban would be counterproductive. Fig chief executive Robert Bree said it was "crazy" for schools to attempt to ban sweet drinks altogether - they needed to offer "a reasonable alternative" such as diet sodas.
'Otherwise, the children will just leave the school and go to the local dairy, schools lose the money and it's not solving anything.'