The London Eye is now sponsored by Coca-Cola. On the opening day of the rebranded visitor attraction, the Children's Food Campaign handed out 500 toothbrushes to visitors - 500 being the number of children admitted to hospitals in the UK each week for dental extractions. This is the most common reason for children to be admitted to hospital of all medical conditions. Lydia Harris wrote the following letter to the BDJ Editor-in-Chief in response to the news:
Sir, on 17 January of this year the London Eye was rebranded the ‘Coca-Cola London Eye’. With this rebrand, London's most iconic landmark has been illuminated red, the pods decorated with logos and staff uniform emblazoned with the Coca-Cola motif. Not surprisingly, this move has prompted some controversy within the health community. On the opening day, the Children's Food Campaign handed out toothbrushes to some of the first visitors, in an attempt to relay the message that sponsorship of such a tourist attraction by a sugary drinks manufacturer is wholly inappropriate.
Guidance from the World Health Organization, issued in 2003, states that free sugars should make up less than 10% of total energy consumed.1 A new draft guideline in fact suggests that this should be around 5%,2 which equates to approximately 25 grams of sugar (with an average intake of 2,000 calories per day). With one 500 ml bottle of Coca-Cola containing approximately 53 g of sugar and one 330 ml can containing 35 g, it is not surprising that sugar intake in all age groups exceeds current recommendations, with one of the key sources of sugar being soft drinks, particularly among teenagers.3
The following questions could then be posed: Does this type of advertising need more strict regulation, given the health consequences that increased consumption of this product could lead to? Would stopping this kind of sponsorship/advertising make a discernible difference to public health? Research suggests a link between sugary drinks marketing and sugar consumption,4,5 and in 2010 the World Health Organization set out guidelines to ‘ensure that children everywhere are protected against the impact of such marketing’.6 Given Public Health England's best efforts to get people to ‘Change4Life’ (a campaign aimed to encourage swapping sugary drinks for sugar-free), it seems inappropriate for an iconic London landmark such as the (Coca-Cola) London Eye to be sponsored by, and indeed, advertising for, a corporate, sugary drinks giant, whose increased sales may worsen our public health and the costs to our NHS.