Restaurants in France now face prosecution if they offer unlimited fizzy drinks to customers in the latest Gallic crackdown on obesity.
France had already enforced a tax on sweet drinks in 2012. Now, a new decree makes it illegal to sell unlimited amounts of drinks with sugar or sweetener at a fixed price or for free.
The ban, which was published in the government's Journal Officiel website on Thursday and came into force this week, applies to all soft drinks "fountains" in areas open to the public, including restaurants, fast food chains, schools and holiday camps. It outlaws unlimited "flavoured fizzy and non-fizzy drinks, concentrated drinks like fruit syrups, drinks based on water, milk, cereal, vegetables or fruit", but also "sports and energy drinks, fruit nectar, vegetable nectar and similar products".
Ikea, the home improvement chain, has removed drink fountains from its 33 centres around France, but other vendors, including the fast food chain Quick, waited until the yesterday to change their drink fountain set-up.
Five Guys, a newcomer in France, was reported to have opted to add microchips to cups so when customers try and get a refill from its fountains, they automatically switch off. Parliament approved the ban in April 2015 and enshrined it in law in January last year as part of drive to reduce obesity.
A recent study suggested that half of French adults are overweight. However; only 15 per cent are technically obese. A person with a body mass index (weight divided by the square of height) of 30 or more is considered obese. A person with a BMI equal to or more than 25 is considered overweight.
Marisol Touraine, France's health minister, has championed the ban on unlimited refills, telling MPs: "This habit is common in other countries and it is increasingly taking hold in France. I understand it can be attractive for young people who are offered unlimited sugary drinks, which contain an excessive amount of sugar or sweeteners."
France started a campaign against obesity in 2004, when it limited school vending machines to selling fruit and water. In 2011 it banned ketchup from school cafeterias and only allowed chips on the menu once a week. A soda drink tax ensued.
It appears the measures are working. The French consume fewer soft drinks per person than any other country in western Europe bar Portugal, recent research suggested.
The French drank 65.5 litres per capita of sweet drinks in 2015 compared with 106.6 litres in Britain, according to figures cited by Le Figaro. Americans consume more than twice as many soft drinks as the French, drinking 155 litres per capita in 2014.
Last year, Britain announced a sugar levy on the soft drinks industry, to be introduced in 2018.