Coca-Cola is the latest food and beverages behemoth copping criticism for its unhealthy products, with Cristiano Ronaldo taking a stand against the brand’s most famous fizzy drink.
The champion footballer’s comments come as doctors in Australia campaign for a crack down on sugary drinks that are fuelling the obesity epidemic.
At a Euro 2020 press conference on Monday, Ronaldo looked less than pleased to see promotional bottles of tournament sponsor Coca-Cola’s soft drink displayed on the table in front of him.
Upon sitting down, the Portugal and Juventus player removed the two bottles before him, and delivered his own message to the audience.
“Drink water,” he said simply.
Coca-Cola’s share price plunged dramatically following the comments, with about $4 billion wiped off the firm’s market value.
Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid praised the football star’s stance and urged high-profile athletes in Australia to follow his lead.
“Wouldn’t it be great to see Aussie sports stars supporting healthy choices for Australians, like [Cristiano Ronaldo]?” Dr Khorshid wrote on Twitter.
“Sports need to wean themselves off sponsorship and advertising revenue from alcohol, gambling and fast food.”
It isn’t the first time Ronaldo has demonised unhealthy food and drinks.
At last year’s Globe Soccer Awards he expressed displeasure over his 10-year-old son’s taste for fast food and fizzy drinks, saying he was “hard with him sometimes because he drinks Coca-Cola and Fanta sometimes … and I fight with him when he eats chips and fries. He knows I don’t like it”.
Doctors want ‘sugar tax’ on fizzy drinks
Earlier this month, the Australian Medical Association launched a report calling for a ‘sugar tax’ that would see the price of sweetened fizzy drinks rise.
The proposed tax would raise the retail price of the average supermarket sugary drink by 20 per cent.
The tax would be “an important first step towards tackling obesity and raise revenue to take further steps” and could result in 16,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes, 4400 fewer cases of heart disease and 1100 fewer cases of stroke over a 25-year period, the association said.
“It could save lives, and save millions of dollars in healthcare costs,” Dr Khorshid said.
The campaign comes as Australia faces a growing public health crisis caused by diet-related diseases.
Two in three adults and one in four children are overweight or obese, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures show.
More than 2.4 billion litres of sugary drinks are consumed every year in Australia, despite having little to no nutritional value, Dr Khorshid said.
“These are drinks you don’t need in your diet,” he said.
A tax on sugary drinks would send “a clear price signal to consumers that a product is unhealthy and makes it less affordable”, Dr Khorshid said.
“It can also nudge manufacturers to reformulate their products to contain less sugar.”
Big brands face scrutiny
From Coca-Cola to Nestlé, the world’s big food and drinks brands are household names around the world, but the nutritional value of their offerings has been called into question.
Earlier this month, it was reported that the world’s largest food company, Nestlé, had internally acknowledged that most of the company’s mainstream food and drinks products do not meet a “recognised definition of health”.
In Australia, just 37 per cent of Nestlé’s mainstream food and beverage products garnered a health star rating above 3.5.
Food giants must to be held accountable for their role in the rise of diet-related diseases around the world, said Gary Sacks, a researcher at Deakin University’s Global Obesity Centre.
“The biggest food companies around the world have the biggest influence on what products we have available and how it’s marketed to us,” Associate Professor Sacks said.
“So in that sense big food companies that sell a lot of unhealthy food do play a major role in driving unhealthy diets.”