More reports on: Health & Medicine

France bars restaurants from offering free soda, sugary drink refills

28 January 2017

France yesterday barred restaurants from offering free refills of sodas and other sugary drinks.

The new regulation comes as the latest attempt to tackle what the government called a relentless rise in the national obesity rate. Fast-food restaurants, usually foreign chains, would likely become targets under the new law.

The law, which takes immediate effect, said it aimed to ''limit, especially among the young,'' the risks of obesity and diabetes.

The move by France was in line with the recommendations of the World Health Organization, which had urged countries to impose a tax on sugary drinks to counter an increase in obesity, presenting data in 2016 on the beneficial health effects of such a tax.

The French, on average are less overweight than other Europeans and Americans, with the share of obese adults (age 18 and older), 15.3 per cent in 2014, just below the EU average of 15.9 per cent, according to Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU. Malta with 26 per cent share had the highest adult obesity of European nations.

The corresponding figure in the US was 36.5 per cent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the overall adult obesity rate in France appeared to be relatively low, 57 per cent of men and 41 per cent of women 30 to 60 years old were overweight or obese, according to a report released in October by Bulletin Épidémiologique Hebdomadaire, the French medical journal.

France had already slapped a tax on sweet drinks in 2012, and a new decree now made it illegal to sell unlimited amounts of drinks with sugar or sweetener at a fixed price or for free.

Published in the government's Journal Officiel website on Thursday and in force since Friday, the ban would apply to all soda "fountains" in areas open to the public, including restaurants, fast food-chains, schools and holiday camps.

"Flavoured fizzy and non-fizzy drinks, concentrated drinks like fruit syrups, drinks based on water, milk, cereal, vegetables or fruit", and also "sports and energy drinks, fruit nectar, vegetable nectar and similar products" would come under the purview of the new law.

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