France bans free soft drink refills in effort to stop obesity

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France banned free soda refill in a law in force Friday. Unlimited amounts of soda, offered for free or at a fixed price, is now illegal. The ban is an attempt to fight obesity. File Photo by Billie Jean Shaw/UPI

Jan. 27 (UPI) — France banned unlimited refills of soft drinks at restaurants through a law put into effect Friday in a campaign to reduce obesity.

The law specifically states it is illegal to sell unlimited soft drinks at a fixed price and illegal to offer unlimited amounts for free. It applies to all soft drinks and sugared sports drinks available in public places, and is aimed at limiting “especially among the young, the risks of obesity, overweight and diabetes” in accordance with World Health Organization guidelines.

The occurrence of adult obesity in France is 15.3 percent, below the European Union average of 15.9 percent, a survey by Eurostat indicated, but the French medical journal Bulletin Epidemiologique Hebdomadaire noted that by the age of 30, 57 percent of men and 41 percent of women in France are overweight or obese.

France banned vending machines in schools in 2004, allowing only fruit and water to be sold there. In 2011 it barred ketchup from school cafeterias and mandated that French fries could only be served on a weekly basis.

The French ban on soda refills comes after Mexico placed a 10 percent tax on cola products and saw a 6 percent decline in their consumption in the first year. A 2013 effort in New York City to control portions of sugary drinks sold at restaurants and stadiums was rejected by a court.

The French consume fewer soft drinks per person than nearly any other country, a 2011 Euromonitor survey showed. Only the Portuguese consume less per person. French consumption of soft drinks in the survey was 11 gallons per person per year. Those in the Britain consumed 22 gallons per person per year. The United States figure was 44 gallons per person per year, the website TheLocal.Fr reported.

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