Coca Cola, Pepsi
Coca Cola, PepsiReuters

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based advocacy group, along with other global health organisations has written to soft drink majors Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to put curbs on marketing and advertising of sugar-sweetened drinks to children below the age of 16 years.

CSE said a statement on Friday that they have written to Coca-Cola chief executive officer (CEO) Muhtar Kent and PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi along with other major institutional investors of these companies to take up the issue during the respective annual meetings of these companies, which are scheduled to be held soon.

The advocacy group said sugar-added drinks have led to a new trend of diabetes2 and obesity among children and the problem could be more severe in India.

In India, which is also known as the diabetes capital of the world, nearly 70,000 children suffered from type 1 diabetes in 2014 and another 40,000 children were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a figure growing by five percent each year, the Times of India reported.

CSE said it is the low-income countries in the world, which will face huge burden of healthcare costs related to increasing cases of type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other soda-related health problems.

The group in its letter to soft drink companies said, "While sugar-drink consumption in the United States and Europe has been declining, your company and others are investing billions of dollars annually to increase sales in low/middle-income countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America."

"Sugary drinks are aggressively targeted to children world over. The problem is much severe in India. Our regulations are weak to address this issue. Companies are aggressively targeting our children, directly and indirectly. There is no check on celebrity endorsements, broadcasting during programs for children, in-school promotion," Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE, said.

Coca- Cola and PepsiCo have also been urged to include health warning notices on soda containers as well as stop opposition to the public health measures including taxes, warning labels or marketing restrictions aimed to reduce soda consumption.

The other co-signatories of the letter are the World Public Health Nutrition Association, World Obesity Federation, Consumers International and Center for Science in the Public Interest and Alliance for the Control of Tobacco Use and Health Promotion, Brazil, among others.

"Sugary drinks are contributing to growing childhood obesity, early onset of type-2 diabetes. It is time that these big companies act responsibly and stop marketing these unhealthy drinks to children. It would be a big initiative from their side," Bhushan added.