Celebrity chefs and politicians go fizz free this February

1 February 2019

Fizz Free February has got off to an explosive start for 2019, with celebrities, politicians, schools and councils across the country pledging to give up fizzy drinks.

Launched last year by Southwark Council, Fizz Free February 2019 is uniting people across the country in a bid to #gofizzfree and make healthy choices instead.  From Sandwell to Barnsley, Kent to Newcastle, Northampton to Lancashire, councils and individual councillors have all signed up in a bid to tackle obesity and tooth decay. Many areas have followed Southwark’s lead in encouraging schools to sign up and get involved, as one of the key objectives of the campaign is tackling childhood obesity.

This week, representatives from campaigning groups, health organisations, local businesses, charities and local government came together in the Houses of Parliament to hear from key speakers including Fizz Free February spokesperson Cllr Evelyn Akoto, Tom Watson MP, Mick Armstrong Chair of The British Dental Association and Ben Reynolds, Deputy CEO of Sustain.

Hosted and chaired by Helen Hayes MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, the debate covered how Fizz Free February is a simple but effective way to help change habits and raise awareness of what we consume. Panellists highlighted the various ways that sugary fizzy drinks impact on physical and oral health. Mick Armstrong highlighted that dentists are still seeing children as young as three years old need fillings and tooth extractions due to decay.  Tom Watson and Helen Hayes also shared their personal experiences with diabetes and how reducing sugar had played a key roll in reversing the disease.

The discussion also highlighted the other important work that goes on year round to tackle obesity, like the Alexandra Rose voucher scheme in Southwark which give low income families vouchers to spend on fruit and veg, increasing access to water fountains and the need to improve and simplify food and drink labelling.

The event was drawn to a close by a visit from Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock who has also lent his support to the campaign.

Southwark is moving in the right direction when it comes to childhood obesity but there is still a long way to go as the borough is still above the London average when it comes to obesity levels. When ranked against other London boroughs Southwark has seen improvements. The borough has gone from fifth highest for excess weight in year 6 in 2016-17 to eleventh place in 2017-18, the first time since records began that Southwark has been outside the top ten in London for excess weight in this age group. For children in reception Southwark has gone from third to fourth in this age bracket for levels of excess weight.

To join in, just pledge to give up fizzy drinks for 28 days and tweet us using #GoFizzFree. You can also take part by signing up on our website.

Cllr Evelyn Akoto, cabinet member for community safety and public health, said: “Childhood obesity is arguably the biggest health crisis of a generation. In Southwark we want to make it easy for people to make small changes that have big benefits, and Fizz Free Feb is a fun way to encourage young people to think about their health. But of course this work extends far beyond just the 28 days of February. The fact that so many councils up and down the country have jumped on board this campaign shows local government’s commitment to tackling childhood obesity head on.  To everyone who has taken the fizz free pledge, good luck! I hope this is a springboard to a healthier and happier life for you and your families.”

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “Child obesity is putting the health of young Londoners at risk and placing huge pressure on our already strained health service. It’s vital that we take bold steps to tackle it and I’m proud to support and take part in Southwark’s Fizz Free February initiative to highlight the impact sugar has on obesity and tooth decay. Tackling the childhood obesity epidemic in the capital is a crucial part of ensuring that all young Londoners are able to flourish and lead happy, healthy lives.”

Jamie Oliver said:  “Sugary fizzy drinks are the biggest single source of sugar in the average kid's diet. So it’s a fantastic idea to go fizz-free for a month – your body and teeth might really enjoy it! Sign up and tell me how you're getting on #GoFizzFree."

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said: "As Britain’s obesity crisis continues, evidence for the damaging effects of sugar is mounting up. A major recent report from The Lancet confirmed that a high intake of sugary drinks is associated with weight gain, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. We’ve got to find ways to drastically reduce our consumption of sugar and Fizz Free February is a fantastic way to start."

Ben Reynolds, Deputy CEO of the food and farming charity Sustain, commented: “We’ve had a huge interest in Fizz Free February across our network of local Sugar Smart campaigns across the UK. There is a huge appetite to find ways to make it easier for people to cut down on sugar and fizzy drinks, and challenges like this can really help motivate those lifestyle changes. We hope that more areas and organisations will get on board to spread the message.”

Page last updated: 01 February 2019