Leader comment: Multinational companies are feasting on our appetite for sugar

The Official Christmas Coca Cola truck in Princes Street, Edinburgh
The Official Christmas Coca Cola truck in Princes Street, Edinburgh
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That a single child has to have a limb amputated because of the food they eat should shock us all into taking action to reduce the vast amount of sugar in our diet.

Type 2 diabetes – often a consequence of a sweet tooth – is one of the main reasons for lower limb amputations in the UK and it can also lead to blindness, kidney failure, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Supermarkets are stuffed with food high in sugar and it is often hidden in products where few would expect to find it like ready meals, bread, baked beans, cheese and soup.

Clearly the giant stores where we buy most of our weekly shopping must play a role in helping our society to kick what appears to be a considerable addiction.

Few people are unaware of the high-sugar content of drinks like Coca-Cola, so arguments about personal choice can be deployed by those opposed to new legisation designed to protect people’s health.

As we prepare for Christmas – a festive event shaped in part by a 1930s advertising campaign for Coke – there will be cries of “Scrooge!” directed towards anyone who calls for change.

After all, Christmas is meant to be a time of feasting and making merry, not counting the calories or listening to boring lectures about a healthy diet.

However, modern consumerism has produced a situation where many people can feast on junk food high in sugar, salt and fat every day of the year if they want to. Indeed, the cheapest food often has the highest levels of all three.

No single person or company is to blame for this, but, having identified a considerable problem, it is everyone’s duty to attempt to find a solution – particularly those producing the food. And that means that multinational corporations have to recognise their own responsibility, and recognise the damage done by celebrating excess as if it is all good fun. Tell that to the thousands of people who had a limb amputated last year in the UK or to the hundreds of thousands of children who are already overweight or obese when they arrive for their first day at primary school.

Companies that turn a blind eye to the devastating effect sugar is having on our society may benefit in the short-term.

But when the tide turns, as surely it will, those who have not moved with the times will then pay for their irresponsibility.