A health chief is urging Coca-Cola not to offer children sugary drinks as its festive truck visits Glasgow this weekend.
Dr Linda de Caestecker, director of public health at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, urged the drinks giant to act responsibly and promote a healthy start by only offering sugar-free drinks or water.
The Coca-Cola truck will visit Silverburn Shopping Centre on Saturday and Asda Robroyston on Sunday as part of its festive tour of the UK.
Dr de Caestecker said the population is already consuming too much sugar and warned that drastic action is needed to tackle childhood obesity.
Latest figures show that almost one in five children are overweight or obese when they start primary school and almost one in three by the time they leave primary school, and she fears half of all children will be overweight or obese by 2020 unless action is taken.
She said: “There is a lot of excitement for children when the Coca-Cola festive truck visits towns up and down the country.
“This weekend the truck is visiting two venues in Glasgow and I am asking them to help us provide a healthy start for young children by only offering sugar-free drinks or water.
“We are asking Coca-Cola to stop promoting sugary drinks during the ‘Happy Holidays’ truck tour and only distribute sugar-free drinks and water to the general public, in particular to children.
“We ask that Coca-Cola takes responsibility as an influential brand and support customers to make healthier choices.
“It is not just Coca-Cola but all commercial organisations who can help tackle childhood obesity and put to rest the myth that sugar-free drinks are as bad or worse than sugary drinks.
“Our population is already consuming too much sugar and a small can of standard cola contains almost the maximum daily amount of sugar recommended for a small child.
“It is not, therefore, just a small festive treat but gives a very poor message to families.”
It comes after other health experts lashed out at Coca-Cola and other companies who are cashing in on the UK’s “obesity epidemic”.
The drinks giant is taking its signature red truck around the UK for the seventh year, visiting 42 locations, starting on Saturday in Glasgow and ending in Lakeside, Essex, on December 17.
Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: “Our nation is in the grip of an obesity epidemic, and sugary drinks are a big part of the problem – they account for 30% of four to 10-year-olds’ daily sugar intake.
“Our children are bombarded year-round with advertising for these products, and at Christmas that pressure is ratcheted up another notch.
“While it’s easy for all of us to indulge a little too much over the festive period, we should be able to do so without turning Christmas into a corporate sugar-fest aimed at selling drinks to children.”
Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, said: “Coca-Cola starting their tour in Glasgow is trolling of the highest order. Glasgow’s rates of obesity and dental decay are far higher than the UK average.”
A Coca-Cola spokeswoman said: “The Coca-Cola Christmas truck tour provides a moment of fun for everyone in the build-up to Christmas and we’ve had a positive response from many people in Glasgow to the news that it will stop there this year.
“The truck tour is a one-off, annual event where we offer people a choice of 150ml samples of Coca-Cola Classic, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar or Diet Coke – so two of the three options are no-sugar drinks.
“We also have a policy of not providing drinks to children under the age of 12, unless their parent or guardian is present and says they can have one.”