Liverpool health chief calls for Coca-Cola truck ban

A leading Liverpool health expert has called for an end to Coca-Cola’s Christmas truck after claiming it is ‘hijacking Christmas’.

The soft drinks firm brought its iconic red truck to the city and handed out free cans of Coke to members of the public as part of its build-up to the festive period.

But a piece written by John Ashton CBE for the British Medical Journal has condemned Coca-Cola for sending the wrong message to children suffering health problems.

Merseyside-born Ashton collaborated with several public health experts and campaign group Food Active to produce the damning findings.

“We can celebrate without allowing Coca-Cola to hijack Christmas by bringing false gifts of bad teeth and weight problems to our children,” read the report.

“With figures showing that 33.8% of 10 to 11-year-olds in the north west are overweight or obese and that 33.4% of five-years-olds have tooth decay, many public health departments have used their ever-squeezed budgets to launch campaigns about sugary drinks to try to help their communities reduce their consumption.

“So Coca-Cola’s campaign was scarcely welcomed by local directors of public health, medical professionals, educationalists, or indeed members of the public.”

Coca-Cola’s UK operation has responded to the claims made in the report co-compiled by Ashton, the former national president for Faculty of Public Health.

“We had a really positive response from consumers to last year’s tour,” a spokeswoman told the Liverpool Echo.

“People could enjoy a small 150ml can of Coca-Cola Classic or one of our two no-sugar options – Diet Coke or Coca-Cola Zero Sugar.

“We operate the tour in line with our responsible marketing policy and we do not provide drinks to under-12s unless their parent or guardian is present and happy for us to do so.

“It is difficult to understand why they think banning the Coca-Cola Christmas truck will improve public health in the region.

“The fact is, as government data show, sugar intake from soft drinks by both children and teenagers continues to decline and consumption of full-sugar soft drinks in general has fallen by 44% since 2004.

“We will continue to take actions to help people to reduce the sugar they consume from our range of drinks.

“But the evidence suggests the current focus on sugar and soft drinks alone will not address the problem.”