Soft drinks set to give Vietnam very hard time

By Nam Phuong   June 22, 2018 | 05:00 pm PT
Soft drinks set to give Vietnam very hard time
Sugary drinks are a top pick by Vietnamese adults and children. Photo by Reuters
WHO rings alarm bells, saying skyrocketing consumption can trigger obesity epidemic and attendant health risks.

Vietnam has been put on high alert over its consumption of sugary drinks, which has skyrocketed over the last 18 years, experts said at a conference on Friday.

They based their warnings on results of a global survey done by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Truong Tuyet Mai, deputy director of the National Institute of Nutrition, said that Vietnamese people are forecast to consume over 5 billion liters of sweetened drinks in 2018, a surge of almost nine times against the year 2000, and the figure is estimated to reach 11 billion by 2025.

In 2016, sugary drinks sales in Vietnam reached four billion of liters, according to a survey by British market researcher Euromonitor International, which found instant tea and soft drinks were the best-selling beverages.

The survey also found that the sweetened beverage market has been rising fast in Vietnam, with an annual growth rate of 9.2 percent.

“Soft drinks are a top pick by adults and children but the fact is that sweetened beverages are the culprit behind rising obesity, which is linked to many health risks like cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and stroke,” said Truong Dinh Bac, deputy head of the General Department of Preventive Medicine under Vietnam's Ministry of Health.

A recent survey on students’ health conducted by WHO found 31 percent of Vietnamese students had consumed soft drinks in the previous month, which it said was an alarming rate of consumption, raising health concerns for future Vietnamese generation.

In Vietnam, the rate of overweight and obese people has been increasing rapidly of late, with 25 percent of Vietnamese adults falling in that category at present.

Health officials in the country's largest city Ho Chi Minh say the obesity rate among its school-age children hit 19 percent in 2016. Obesity levels are increasing at a faster rate in downtown areas, where average incomes and living standards are higher, the department found.

The proportion of obese Vietnamese children aged 2 to 19 has risen to 6.8 percent, according to another study by the University of Washington released last June.

The Vietnamese government has prohibited the sale of soft drinks in all school canteens across Vietnam.

A new directive from Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc also bans advertisements of sweetened beverages and other “unhealthy products” in schools.

Recently, the Ministry of Finance proposed levying a special consumption tax rate of 10 or 20 percent on sweetened beverages by 2019, saying it was needed to tackle obesity and related illnesses. Business insiders have voiced objection, saying the tax would hurt companies in the field.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade said in a statement that imposing a special consumption tax on soft drinks because they contain sugar is not a convincing enough reason.

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