Public health officials in Liverpool are the first in the country to inform parents about the amount of sugar in popular brands of soft drinks.
A high profile campaign titled “Is your child’s sweet tooth harming their health?” outlines how many sugar cubes are in drinks such as Lucozade, Coca Cola, Tropicana, Capri-Sun and Ribena.
Large, eye-catching cut out boards of bottles highlighting how many sugar cubes is in each drink are being placed in areas of high footfall and buildings such as children’s centres, doctors surgeries/health centres and hospitals.
The drive is aimed at tackling an alarming level of tooth decay in young children in the city, with dentists having to remove teeth from children as young as five under general anaesthetic on a daily basis.
Around 2,000 children in the city will have had extractions by the age of five, and more than a third will have suffered from tooth decay.
It is estimated the average child consumes more than their body weight in sugar every single year – a total of 5,543 cubes, more than three times the recommended amount.
Councillor Tim Beaumont, Mayoral lead for wellbeing, said: “Through no fault of their own, families simply don’t realise how much sugar is in some of these drinks.
“As well as leading to poor dental health, it is contributing to the obesity issue in Liverpool which means that one in four children starting primary school are overweight, rising to 38 percent for secondary school age pupils.
“What we’re trying to do through this campaign is get the message across that even drinks which are marketed as healthy such as orange juice and flavoured water have large amounts of sugar in them.
“This is about getting families and young children into healthy habits which will hopefully last a lifetime and prevent future unnecessary pain and trauma.”
The campaign highlights that 500ml of Lucozade contains 15.5 cubes (64 grams) of sugar while an equivalent bottle of Coca-Cola has 13.5 cubes (54 grams) – against a maximum daily allowance of five to seven cubes for children depending upon their age.
Even healthier options such as Tropicana orange juice have 7.5 sugar cubes (30 grams) in a 300ml bottle.
Director of Public Health, Dr Sandra Davies, said: “We are the first local authority in the country to name how much sugar is in specific brands because we feel it is really important that all parents have the facts they need when making decisions about which drinks to give their children.
“Many of us are not in the habit of studying labels on drinks and the evidence that we have is that people don’t realise how much sugar is in them, so we are taking steps to support them to make healthier choices.
“Our advice to parents is to take their child to the dentist by the age of one and teach them to brush their teeth correctly from an early age. There is also a wealth of information online in the Change4life campaign.”
Parents are being urged to swap their children to water, low fat milk and sugar free drinks to give them a healthier start in life and stop them getting into a habit which could cause obesity and lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers later in life.
Sondos Albadri, Reader and Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry at the University of Liverpool, said: “There is a myth that baby teeth are not important but the fact is that they are vital as they help guide adult teeth into position. Persistent infections can be detrimental to the child general health and early loss of baby teeth can also lead to problems with adult teeth later in life.
“The problem with tooth decay in Liverpool isn’t only confined to younger children and we are increasingly seeing children aged between 12 and 16 at the Dental Hospital.
“I had to remove 15 adult teeth on a 14 year old recently, and while that is an extreme case it is by no means a rare occurrence.
“All of this is largely preventable by reducing sugar intake and keeping teeth clean by brushing twice a day.”
More facts about sugar and how people can cut back are available by searching CHANGE4LIFE online or download the sugar smart app on the iTunes app store or Google play.
FACT FILE – THE NUMBER OF SUGAR CUBES IN POPULAR DRINKS
• 15.5 – Lucozade (500ml)
• 13.5 – Coca Cola (500ml)
• 12.7 – Frijj chocolate milkshake (471ml)
• 8.25 – Capri-Sun (330ml)
• 7.5 – Tropicana orange juice (300ml)
• 7.25 – Ribena (288ml)
• 5.75 – Volvic flavoured water (500ml)
• 0 – tap water
Each cube = 4g of sugar
TOP TIPS FOR PARENTS
• Keep sugary drinks and treats to mealtime only
• Encourage your child to drink only water and milk between meals
• Always check labels for sugar content
• Get your child to brush their teeth twice a day
• Take your child to the dentist at least from the age of one