Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

SOFT-DRINKS adverts brandishing schools’ names could become a thing of the past if the government heeds a call by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on sugary drinks and junk food.

The organisation is calling for a sugar tax on soft drinks and for junk food advertisements to be pulled from settings where children are present.

Predicting the number of overweight children aged under five to jump from 42-million to 70-million over the next decade, the WHO’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity recommends that governments promote healthy diets through "effective taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages and curbing the marketing of unhealthy foods".

According to a commission report, soft drinks and its adverts aimed at children were a major factor in the alarming increase of obese children from 31-million in 1990 to 41-million in 2014. It found the number of obese children under five in Africa nearly doubled since 1990 to 10.3-million.

Professor Karen Hofman of the University of the Witwatersrand said on Tuesday a sugar tax was an "excellent recommendation".

"It is exactly what is needed. We cannot wait any longer. The risk of diabetes is increased by 55% in childhood by drinking just one sugar-sweetened beverage per day; for adults, this is closer to 30%.

"Research shows that self-regulation does not work."

But the Beverages Association of SA strongly disagrees that "selective taxation" is an effective tool for tackling obesity.

"Singling out one category of products for additional taxes is discriminatory and will do nothing to promote healthy and balanced lifestyles and will not ultimately benefit consumer health," the association’s Mapule Ncanywa said.