28 Nov 2018

Fiji soft drink production increase contrasts health issues

5:43 pm on 28 November 2018

An increase in production capacity at the Coca-Cola Amatil factory in Fiji highlights the tension between the soft drink industry and the government, the Ministry of Health says.

Bottles of Coca-Cola on a production line.

Bottles of Coca-Cola on a production line. Photo: AFP

The soft drink maker has tripled capacity with the introduction of new technology at its manufacturing facility in Laucala.

Installation of German-made Krones Blowfill equipment will allow it to produce 21,000 bottles per hour.

The facility's managing director, Roger Hare, said the improvements would support future growth for the next 10 years and enable the company to grow exports from Fiji over the next five to eight years.

At the same time, the health ministry's national advisor for Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs), Isimeli Tukana, said the government was working to regulate the market through sugar taxes, advertising standards and public health education.

The government was liaising with the World Health Organisation and the UN's children's agency UNICEF to help it negotiate with the soft drink industry, Mr Tukana said.

The increased production could have an impact in Fiji and in neighbouring Pacific island nations struggling with high rates of NCDs like childhood obesity, which are linked to high sugar consumption, he said.

"It's one of the battles that we have not only in Fiji but all over the world. And it's recognised by the World Health Organisation and it's no different in Fiji," Mr Tukana said.

"As we try and fight to reduce the advertisements of unhealthy foods and unhealthy drinks for children, our biggest barrier and our fight is with these big industries."

Mr Tukana said the increased production could also compromise Fiji's plastic pollution reduction obligations, which Fiji needed to meet as the holder of the presidency of the UN climate change conference COP23.