Eva is a regular columnist for NZME publications.

Opinion: Calling time on sugary drink paranoia

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Is an orange juice now and then really so bad? PHOTO/GETTY
Is an orange juice now and then really so bad? PHOTO/GETTY

If you aren't aware how uncool sugary drinks have become in recent years, I can only conclude it's because you've been hiding under a rock.

New statistics, taxes and regulations on sugary drinks come out so frequently and dominate our headlines so much that I've come to fear them in much the same way I do cockroaches.

The suspicion I have for any liquid sold in a bottle is right up there with used car salesmen and I feel almost as guilty enjoying a drink of so-called 'super juice' as I do tucking into a king-size block of chocolate.

When you have children the fear is compounded ten-fold. On a recent trip to the dental nurse I was questioned Gestapo-style about my son's drinking habits and warned about the evils that lurked insidiously in any drink other than water, while posters of wide-mouthed urchins sporting rotting teeth papered the walls around us.

But this week two things made me begin to wonder if it isn't about time we got a bit of perspective around the dangers of sugary drinks.

Firstly, a news story broke 'exposing' the Auckland Council's unwitting indirect investment in what appeared to be a true axis of social evil: tobacco, fossil fuel and...sugary drinks.

I'm in no way denying the harm caused by a massive increase in sugar consumption in recent years but have we really reached the point where sugar can be lined up in the same firing squad as cigarettes and fossil fuel?

Apparently we are.

At the same time as I reflected on this, the ongoing low-level battle I've been having with my mother about giving my son freshly squeezed orange juice came to a head.

Despite frequent soft and then increasingly firm entreaties on my part to stick to water, my mother continued to flagrantly tout the ban and was either giving him squeezed juice all day every day or saving the treat to coincide with when I arrived to collect him.

Our discussions on the topic have become so regular my son is now surely the only two-year-old in the country to count the word 'paranoid' among his very limited vocabulary.
And while I won't say it within her earshot, I'm starting to wonder if maybe my mum is right.

Am I being paranoid?

At what point do we have to understand there is a difference between the message that needs to be sent out to reckless, uneducated parents giving their kids large bottles of fizz whenever they want and a grandmother squeezing some orange into a small glass (allegedly) only 'now and again'?

Once upon a time it was drugs and unplanned pregnancy that freaked parents out most. Now we fear juice in much the same way and it's the image of young kids lurking in shadowy back alleys trading OJ artlessly disguised in brown paper bags that haunts us most.

You could hear a pin drop in the shocked hush that descends when a toddler pulls out a juice pack from his lunchbox at playgroup.

Sugar consumption is a First World worry we should feel grateful to have. In many distant parts of the world (and perhaps Havelock North) parents are more concerned about where the next glass of clean water will come from.

So I'm going to take a chill pill and concede defeat on OJ-gate with my mum. Ideally it would be a sugar-free chill pill but if it's not, is that really the end of the world?

- Bay of Plenty Times

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