Govt investment in sugary drinks as bad as tobacco - expert


A health expert is shocked by the revelation more than $240 million of taxpayers' money is invested in global soft drink and fast food chains.

Figures obtained by Radio New Zealand show as of May 31, the NZ Superannuation Fund and the Accident Compensation Cooperation (ACC) had $110 million invested in The Coca-Cola Company and its global subsidiaries, and $70m in its main rival, PepsiCo.

Another $38m was invested in McDonald's in America and Japan, and $17m in Domino's Pizza in the UK and Australia. In New Zealand, the Super Fund has $5m in the NZX-listed Restaurant Brands, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut, Carl's Junior and Starbucks in New Zealand.

Dental Association spokesperson Rob Beaglehole says it is totally inappropriate for taxpayers' money to be invested with companies which cause so much pain and suffering.

He says the products from all of these brands are major contributors to tooth decay, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

"It is a confusing message and it is also ironic because it's a Super fund - a lot of the people who are getting super are grandparents and they have kids who are getting holes in their teeth."

Mr Beaglehole likens the investment to money the Government used to have with tobacco companies.

"On the super fund website it says they have divested in tobacco because if you consume it as intended it causes harm, but if you consume sugary drinks as intended it causes harm too."

In 2007, the NZ Superannuation Fund made the decision to divest stocks because: "Investment in tobacco stocks is inconsistent with New Zealand's international commitments, national legislation, and Crown actions - in particular the objectives of the World Health Organisation (WHO)."

Mr Beaglehole says there is no difference between tobacco and sugary drinks. He says it's the number one source of added sugar in the New Zealand diet and if we can reduce people's intake, it will have a massive impact.

"It would save the Government money and taxpayers' money. Why are taxpayers paying to mop up the mess that these products are causing?"

Mr Beaglehole says the only option is to immediately divest in the funds.

"It would send a positive message to the community and it would mean the Government doesn't have sticky fingers."

However the NZ Super Fund said in a statement: “While we recognise that nutrition is a public health issue, we have no plans to put any sugar or fast food exclusions in place.”