Ban the Van call to tackle Childhood Obesity in Liverpool


This is how Coca-Cola promoted its fizzy sugary drinks last year

Today the Government has produced a childhood obesity strategy which is not a strategy or even a wish list of things that can be done. It can best be described as a checklist of hope that things will change because the Government asks them to. This is highly unlikely. Sugar and salt are added to products because it helps them to sell. Evidence about their addictive qualities are ignored in a mad dash for profits.

Does this sound familiar? It should do because that was the situation 30 years ago with tobacco. The industry fought tooth and nail to say that tobacco was actually healthy and manly (and womanly depending on the brand!) Today health drinks are promoted which are anything but healthy given their huge sugar content which produces a sugar rush of energy but long-term teeth and stomach problems.

As the spokesperson for the LGA on public health I support what it says today about the Government’s strategy:

  • This is a plan that doesn’t go far enough and is a missed opportunity to tackle the rising obesity epidemic
  • -The LGA has long been calling for radical game-changing action from government and unfortunately this plan falls short of that
  • -Today’s obese children will be tomorrow’s obese adults and we need radical measures to be brought in now
  • -Councils up and down the country are coming up with innovative ways of tackling obesity but they can only do so much. We need fundamental changes brought in by government if we are to really tackle obesity
  • -Physical activity alone won’t tackle child obesity.
  • Obesity doesn’t stop and start at the school gate. A focus on schools misses the whole family role in healthy eating and physical activity
  • -We’ve had voluntary agreements between government and the food and drink industry before that only go so far.
  • -We need a whole systems approach to tackle obesity.


But as the Liberal Democrat Spokesman I am asking for much more action and actions starting today.

So today I have written to the Liverpool 1 shopping centre and asked to ‘ban the van’. The van in question being the Coca-Cola van which tours the Country every Christmas generating vast amounts of publicity for the company at little cost. This is what I said:

Re:       Will you ‘can the van?’

You may be aware that the Government have today produced their Childhood Obesity Strategy. To be fair it’s not really a strategy or even a wish list but it is a checklist of what needs to be done about the severe problems of childhood obesity.

In Liverpool sugar is the new tobacco. At the age of 11 30% of our children are obese, 10% of them clinically obese. Almost all of them will become obese adults with a cost to the NHS of £5.1 billion a year. This, of course, takes no account of the personal misery of the conditions which have to be treated; the shortened lives that many of them will have and the cost to businesses they work for because of sick leave.

The causes of childhood obesity are many and the actions that are needed to deal with them are even more varied. There is, however, one thing on which everyone agrees. Too many children are drinking too many fizzy, sugary drinks. That is why last year in the run-up to Christmas I was appalled to see a big promotion by you of Coca-Cola when its red vans visited L1 as part of its advertising campaign tour around the Country. This to my mind, and the mind of many others, glorifies the sale of something which is often consumed in vast quantities with people having little knowledge of just how dangerous the sugar content can be to the long-term health of them and their children.

So I am asking you to do two things:

  1. Can the Van. Don’t let Coca-Cola back in to your premises to repeat their sale of this product which included giving it away and produced for them millions of pounds of free advertising.
  1. Let public health campaigners have a stand in your premises in the run up to Christmas to point out to people preparing for the festivities the problems of excess sugar and salt and explaining just how much of both of these is in the products they buy every day without thinking.

If you are at all unsure of any of the problems that sugar and salt cause I would be pleased to both see you and send you relevant information.

I am hoping that two things will happen as a result of this:

  1. That Liverpool 1 will agree to this request; and
  1. That Lib Dems and others all over the Country will join my ‘ban the van’ campaign. Coca-Cola is the most visible and well known fizzy sugary drink in the World. In this Country and others the consumption of it and its competitors are causing havoc to children’s health which lead to major health problems in adults at a huge costs to the NHS, the individuals affected and the people that they work for.




About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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3 Responses to Ban the Van call to tackle Childhood Obesity in Liverpool

  1. fergusmason says:

    “Sugar and salt are added to products because it helps them to sell.”

    Yes. It helps them to sell because it makes them taste better. Most of us – normal people; you must have met some of us, outside the Lib Dem bubble – like food that tastes good.

    • richardkemp says:

      I like sugar and salt in food but you don’t need sugar and salt in the quantities that manufacturers use to produce a nice taste. The medical profession is united is saying the salt and sugar are the major cause of obesity which is a long-term killer. I really hope that with your attitude you don’t have children.

  2. Christus Ferneyhough says:

    Hi Richard, this is an interesting one and I can understand your argument. However, I offer my brief thoughts below;

    Take Coca Cola out of the equation and you would still have high rates of childhood obesity. It seems unjust to target one company, particulary one that actually offers sugar/calorie free options. Sugar does not CAUSE obesity (and neither does salt). They are but one small piece of the obesogenic environment. It makes much more sense to educate, not eliminate. Keep the truck, let people enjoy the festivity of it. If they don’t get a can of (diet) coke from the van they’ll only go and buy a pint, or a 600kcal frappucino, or a muffin, or a glass of juice, or a suasage roll, or one of the thousands of other calorie dense foods/drinks on offer.

    We need to help people fully understand nutrition so that they can make well informed decitions about their health.


    Christus Ferneyhough

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