Coke forced to defend Christmas truck after Public Health England makes 'tooth decay' attack

Coca-Cola has defended its festive sampling tour after the head of Public Health England criticised the soft drinks company for visiting places with higher than average rates of tooth decay.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of the public body, said: "Big-name brands touring the country at Christmas to advertise their most sugary products to children and boost sales does nothing to help families make healthy choices and wider efforts to combat childhood obesity and rotten teeth.

"Local authorities celebrating sugary drinks in this way need to reflect on whether it’s in the best interests of the health of local children and families."

The Coke Christmas truck is visiting 42 locations in England and Scotland across November and December. PHE claimed that the majority of stops were in areas with higher than average tooth decay among five– and 12-year-old children, The Guardian reported.

But Coke stood by the campaign, pointing out that despite the brand’s association with sugar, a large majority of drinks distributed at truck stops were of sugar free variants Coca Zero Sugar and Diet Coke.

A spokeswoman for the company said: "The Coca-Cola Christmas truck tour is a one-off, annual event where we offer people a choice of 150ml samples of Coca-Cola Classic, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar or Diet Coke, so two of the three options are no sugar drinks.

"This is also reflected in the take-up of samples on the truck tour, with on average over 70% of what we sample being a zero-sugar option.

"We also have a policy of not providing drinks to children under the age of 12, unless their parent or guardian is present and says they can have one. The truck tour route changes every year as we try to cover a fair geographical spread of the UK."

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