Dentists call on Govt to ban sugary drinks in schools

Dentists and Māori public health organisation Hāpai Te Hauoroa are calling on the Government to remove all sugary drinks from schools, leaving students with only water and milk.

Last year the Ministries of Health and Education encouraged schools to voluntarily provide students with water and milk only. Rob Beaglehole, spokesperson for the NZ Dental Association, says while 70 percent of primary schools have a water-only rule, just 14 percent of secondary schools have adopted it.

New Zealand had a short-lived healthy food in schools requirement introduced by the Labour government in 2008. The rule was scrapped by then-education minister Anne Tolley in 2009.

Mr Beaglehole says healthy food regulation has to be reintroduced as approaching schools for voluntary adoption of the rule doesn't work. 

Dentists are sick of seeing children suffering and in pain, Mr Beaglehole said.

"I've seen some shocking cases. It's heartbreaking taking teeth out from young kids, some as young as nappies."

"The number one source of sugar that goes into the diet for youth is actually sugary drinks, so this is why we want the policy."

Mr Beaglehole said he'd like to meet with newly minted Minister of Education Nikki Kaye to discuss introducing a water-only rule in schools.

Education Minister Nikki Kaye.
Education Minister Nikki Kaye. Photo credit: Simon Wong

"It's a very basic issue. What we've found with schools that have done it [is] there have been no issues with the kids complaining, parents complaining, and the teachers have actually been ringing me up saying, 'What an amazing policy. We've got kids now that can actually learn.' They are not coming in from lunch high on sugar."

Auckland's Kelston Boys is one of the high schools thta has adopted the water-only policy recommended by the Ministry of Health.

Mr Beaglehole says it's good to see the school leading the way.