The free soft drink fountain has run dry in France. In an attempt to curb a growing obesity epidemic, the country has approved a new law that prohibits free refills on soft drinks, a staple offering in North American fast food chains. The law has prompted many chains to change the way they serve beverages, moving soda fountains to a new location. In the case of Five Guys, the restaurant has reportedly decided to add a microchip to beverage cups that would prevent customers from using the soda fountains to refill them.
In 2012, France implemented a tax on sweet drinks, a measure that the National Post reports was working. France, the Post says, falls behind only Portugal in all of western Europe in least amount of soda consumed.
Last year, the Canadian government was said to be looking into a tax on soft drinks here. Canada’s obesity rate in adults is over 25 per cent, with another 36 per cent of adults being considered overweight; In children, 13 per cent are obese and another 20 per cent are overweight, according to the Obesity in Canada report by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology published in March of 2016. The report indicated that Canadians were not consuming their daily recommended allotment of fruits and vegetables, The report also noted that changes in Canada’s food guide might be confusing people, and encouraging them to consume far more carbohydrates than they actually need.
“The consequence of Health Canada’s evolving food guide and the increasing variety and availability of processed and ready-to-eat foods has been a pronounced decrease in consumption of whole foods and alarming increase in the consumption of ultra-processed foods. As a result, Canadians are eating too much calorie-rich and nutrient-poor food,” says the Senate Committee’s report. Sugary drinks are a major source of that empty calorie consumption. A medium coke at McDonald’s, for example, contains 220 calories and 56 grams of sugar, while the beverage contains little in the way of nutrients. A Statistics Canada report in 2011 said that Canadians consume 26 teaspoons, or about 128mL of sugar each day, which accounts for more than 20 per cent of daily calorie consumption.
While no soft drink tax has yet been approved or implemented, restaurants are now required to post the calorie content of food and beverage items directly on menus.