ADAWA calls for end to sugary-drink sponsorships in sport

Posted on 2nd August 2021

The Australian Dental Association of WA has united with WA’s peak public health and medical experts to call for an end to the sponsorship of sport by junk food companies, with one of the largest junk food companies in the world granted official sponsorship of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics in Japan.

Cancer Council WA CEO, Ashley Reid, said the time has come to question unhealthy sponsorship of sport by junk food and sugary drink companies; a call backed by ADAWA.

“With Coca-Cola being granted ‘Worldwide Olympic Partner’ of this year’s Olympic Games in Japan, millions of children and families around the world are being exposed to marketing messages pushing these sugar-laden products,” Mr Reid said.

ADAWA Chief Executive Officer Dr David Hallett said that tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in Australian adults and children, commonly caused by added sugars. This type of sponsorship of elite and community sports normalises the consumption of sugary drinks.

Dr Hallett said the message is particularly pertinent during Dental Health Week, which runs from August 2-8, 2021.

“Consumption of added sugars is the main contributor to tooth decay in children, young people and adults,” Dr Hallett said.

“Given nearly half of Australian children have tooth decay, it’s clear that we need to do more to raise awareness of how these products are ruining our WA smiles, but also to have an environment that makes healthy choices easier.

“In 2021, with what we know about protecting teeth, we should have eradicated tooth decay. Instead, not only is tooth decay common, but our members are reporting that these cases of severe decay are far too frequent.”

Telethon Kids Institute Executive Director, Professor Jonathan Carapetis AM, said we need to protect the community from industry tactics designed to maximise profits and support children and families in their efforts to be healthy.

“Our elite athletes are role models for our kids, and recent studies have shown that endorsement of a product by an athlete increases brand recognition and sales, particularly by children,” Professor Carapetis said.

“It is clear from what happened with Cristiano Ronaldo at the Euros that the world’s best athletes understand that associating themselves with unhealthy products like sugary drinks and junk food sends the wrong message to their millions of followers, but it shouldn’t have to be up to the athletes to take this on by themselves.

“It is a conflicting message, especially for children; celebrating athleticism and physical activity on one hand, while being bombarded by junk food and sugary drink marketing on the other.

“As we did when tobacco sponsorship was ended, we need Government to step in and find alternative ways to support and promote sport and our athletes. The impact of junk food and sugary drinks on our children, our families and inevitably our health system is a high price to pay.”