Soft drinks can wrapped in 'warning' tape

Source: Dash

Some celebrity soft drinks brands come stuffed with sugar, caffeine, chemicals, and sweeteners

This month shadow health secretary Wes Streeting laid out how a Labour government would tackle our unhealthy food epidemic. I was most excited to hear plans for a crackdown on junk food marketing.

Streeting’s plans are sorely needed. Very little is being done right now to protect consumers: It’s still a wild west in the UK when it comes to how food and drink is marketed, especially to young people. This simply shouldn’t be the case.

Just in the past couple of years, many celebrities have launched soft drinks, often on the strength of their name alone. And bar the odd success, almost all have been withdrawn from the market practically as soon as they’ve been launched.

These are poor-quality products that are bad for your health, stuffed with sugar, caffeine, chemicals, and sweeteners. Some have double the caffeine of a Red Bull, flying in the face of supposed health claims.

Ironically, it’s gen Z-ers, one of the most wellbeing-focused generations ever, who have to face these products being pushed at them constantly. From TikTok to Insta, you can’t get a break. The peer pressure to just buy the product and fit in is enormous.

Meanwhile, the current government – with its carousel of health and Defra secretaries – has made a habit of rolling back on commitments. Remember the promise to remove two for one deals on HFSS snacks? That’s years overdue.

Manufacturer, regulator, or just friends and family – we all have a responsibility to protect consumers. These folk are not just a faceless audience for what any individual company makes. They’re individuals just like you and me, our kids, or our friends. And our health matters.

That’s why it’s so concerning to see celebrity influencers marketing questionable products. The effect on kids is considerably more impactful than the education they’re getting at schools or at home.

I live in fear of my daughter growing up and feeling like she has to choose a celebrity endorsed unhealthy option to fit in with her friends. We need to address that balance and increase the education on offer, as well as ensuring much tighter regulation on the marketing of unhealthy products – from whoever is in power.

Twenty years ago, we would have been talking about smoking. The conversation around junk food and drink is just as important, as are the consequences for young people’s health.