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Should sugary foods and drinks have graphic warning labels?

Blog Author Russ Ladwa

Blog Date 28/06/2018


There's been talk in the news of the benefits of putting warning labels on products to include photos linking sugary drink consumption with obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay to help reduce purchases of the drinks.

The recent Harvard Business School study showed – perhaps unsurprisingly - that graphic warnings increased negative feelings towards sugary drinks and prompted increased consideration of health risks over taste. 

In the UK, it seems the scourge of sugar is never far from the headlines either, although the impact on teeth is often left out of the health debate, something we try to combat, but there is still a mountain to climb. 

The Government's rather interesting announcement over the weekend, about the launch of the second phase of the Childhood Obesity strategy, pledges sweeping action on junk food marketing - it is something we've welcomed, but with the warning that oral health doesn't (yet again) be left the poor relation, when health outcomes are being discussed. 

To tackle these issues, we've said there needs to be a dedicated and properly-funded strategy to address the ever-widening oral health gap for children across the UK. 

In fact, recently the press have also highlighted the fact children are eating a year's worth of sugar in just five months – we're pleased the Guardian did mention the impact on teeth, as well as the other health issues sugar can cause. 

We've talked about the aggressive marketing companies like Coca-Cola use to target children during the World Cup, and we've called for government to step up and offer a 21st century strategy to combat obesity and decay.

We've discussed how dentists can get the message across better about the impact of fizzy and sugary drinks and sugary foods on teeth – many patients don't seem aware of the amount of sugar they are consuming per day, and are often shocked when they realise how much sugar is in seemingly 'healthy products (see the Activia prune yoghurt on video above – appears to be a healthy choice, but it's actually packed full of sugar)

One idea is that we make sugar the 'new tobacco' and that producers have to be clear not just about the amounts contained (although we think this could be more prominently flagged on the labelling) but also about the health impacts of eating their products. 

We're interested to hear what dentists think about this, do get in touch.

Russ Ladwa, Chair

BDA Health and Science Committee

Campaigning for better oral health

When it comes to oral health, we believe in prevention first: tooth decay is an avoidable disease and we are campaigning for Government's to take this problem seriously, to act now and invest in real prevention.


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