Supersized fizzy drinks sold in cinema chains and leisure centres are set to be targeted as part of a clampdown on soft drinks by the Department of health.
The Grocer has learned that the DH plans to call drinks companies and leisure businesses from across England and Wales to a summit meeting to thrash out a voluntary ban on the drinks - which can pack more than 500 calories a go.
The plans mark the DH’s first concerted effort to reduce the nation’s consumption of fizzy drinks and come amid calls from the health lobby for a tax on high-sugar products to be included in next month’s Budget. They also echo a controversial move in New York last September, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg passed a ban on sugary beverages larger than 16oz (500ml).
The summit will be chaired by Dr Susan Jebb, chair of the government’s Responsibility Deal food network and head of diet and population health at the Medical Research Council.
“In terms of the overall intake of calories, these drinks are not that significant but they set social norms,” she said. “I’ll be inviting drinks companies and the people who run cinema and leisure centres to a meeting to discuss what we can do.
“I think we can all agree a 32 ounce-plus portion is huge. Manufacturers and retailers are trying to reduce portion sizes to 250ml and this doesn’t help.”
One senior industry figure said the drinks, which can be as big as 1.25 litres each, were “a red rag to a bull”.