New Zealand dentists launch war on sugar

  • 09/12/2016
The plan would discourage children from bringing fizzy drinks to schools (Getty)
The plan would discourage children from bringing fizzy drinks to schools (Getty)

Earlier this week, dentist Rob Beaglehole had to remove all of an 18-month-old's teeth because of sugary drinks.

"This child is going to have to wait another four years before his permanent teeth come through. He'll have problems socialising, he'll have problems eating, and he'll have problems speaking."

Now, the New Zealand Dental Association is launching a new campaign against sugary drinks to try and improve Kiwis' health. Its aim is to curb sky-rocketing rates of tooth decay and obesity.

The NZDA says sugary drinks, including fizzy drinks, sports drinks and fruit juices, are a major source of sugar consumed by New Zealand children. It wants packaging to clearly indicate the number of teaspoons of sugar in each drink.

"Current sugar labels rely on confusing calculations such as sugar per 100ml or per 'serve', rather than the total amount in the bottle. People are more familiar with teaspoon measurements," says Dr Beaglehole, NZDA spokesperson .

The proposal would see a full-strength 600ml bottle of fizzy drink state "contains 16 teaspoons of sugar".

"Another thing they could do, of course, is implement the World Health Organisation's recommendation to implement taxes on sugary drinks," says Dr Beaglehole.

Dentists also intend to work with schools and the Ministry of Education to introduce water-only policies, and hold a nationwide social media campaign called 'Switch to Water'.

NZDA says sugary drinks are no longer a "looming" public health crisis, but a very real one.

"By working together, and acting now, we can prevent not only oral health damage, but obesity - a leading risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers."