France Fights Obesity By Banning Unlimited Soda Refills


Restaurants in France will face prosecution starting Jan. 27 should they offer unlimited soda refills to customers. The measure wishes to combat obesity after the country already slapped a tax on sweetened beverages in 2012.

In 2004, France banned vending machines in schools. In 2011, it limited the servings of french fries to once a week in school cafeterias.

France Bans Refills Of Sugary Drinks

The regulation is the latest effort to decrease the "relentless rise" in the national obesity rate, as the government called it.

Fast-food restaurants are expected to be targeted under the new law, which will take effect immediately. France's decision is in accordance with WHO recommendations. The organization has strongly recommended countries to impose a tax on sugary drinks to fight the increased obesity rates, supporting the positive health effects of this policy with data in 2016.

"A meta-review of 11 recent systematic reviews on the effectiveness of fiscal policy interventions for improving diets and preventing non-communicable diseases showed that the evidence was strongest and most consistent for the effectiveness of SSB taxes in the range of 20-50 percent in reducing consumption, and of fruit and vegetable subsidies in the range of 10-30 percent in increasing consumption," noted the Fiscal Policies for Diet and Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases.

Although the overall obesity rate in France is relatively low, 57 percent of men and 41 percent of women in the age group 30 to 60 were either overweight or obese, according to a report released in October by the Bulletin épidémiologique Hebdomadaire, a weekly French journal.

Currently, France is among the developed countries with the lowest obesity and overweight rates. However, as data from the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that the numbers are increasing, the policies come as a means to fighting an epidemic.

In 2014, the share of obese adults in France was 15.3 percent, below the average of the European Union of 15.9 percent, according to data from Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU. Among the European countries, Malta has the highest obesity rate at 26 percent, while the lowest shares of obesity were recorded in Romania, at 9.4 percent.

The same report suggests that obesity rates can be correlated to education. The percentage of obese persons with low education is almost 20 percent, decreasing to 11.5 percent among those with high educational levels.

As each country makes efforts to protect the well-being and the health interests of its citizens, different measures are being taken. In this respect, a Japanese national law forces companies and local governments to measure the waistline of their employees between the ages of 40 and 74, and to encourage them to exercise.

Obesity, A Concerning Problem

At the same time, 36.5 percent of the American population is obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The prevalence of obesity was 36.5 percent (crude estimate) among U.S. adults during 2011-2014. Overall, the prevalence of obesity among middle-aged adults aged 40-59 (40.2 percent) and older adults aged 60 and over (37.0 percent) was higher than among younger adults aged 20-39 (32.3 percent). No significant difference in prevalence was observed between middle-aged and older adults," a National Center for Health Statistics data brief reported.

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