In France on April 1, UDI member of parliament Arnaud Richard introduced an amendment to a French healthcare law that would ban publicly accessible self-service soda fountains and free soda refills in restaurants. According to The Independent, the measure passed overwhelmingly through France’s National Assembly and, if it passes the Senate, will become law.
“Whether they are paid for or not, self-service fountains dispensing drinks with added sugars or artificial sweeteners are banned in all public places or those which are open to the public,” read the amendment. Though the exact list of drinks affected by the ban has yet to be outlined by French lawmakers, Le Monde noted that the ban would cover those drinks that “contribute to the development and maintenance of an appetite for sweet taste.”
French policymakers claim that the policy move is aimed at promoting public health. “It is the role of the law to establish a framework to protect the population against a trade-upmanship that tends to make the ‘free’ surplus of food supply… an argument to attract consumers and encourage them to excessive consumption which can be harmful to health,” said a representative from France’s National Health and Nutrition Programme.
However, The Washington Post’s Rick Noack pointed out the fact that the ban may actually be motivated by xenophobia, anti-Americanism, and the interests of French restaurant owners. Noack wrote, “France considers its cuisine exceptional and has fought for centuries to preserve it from foreign trends. But the struggle has intensified in recent decades with the globalization of fast-food chains… When American-style ‘free refills’ were recently introduced by fast-food restaurants in France, the backlash was swift and sustained.” He also noted that French “restaurant owners have taken the lead” in pushing for the ban on free refills, now that American fast food chains like Kentucky Fried Chicken have begun to offer them in France.
The German publication Deutsche Welle noted that a 2011 study of worldwide obesity rankings from the medical journal The Lancet found that France already ranked among the lowest countries in Europe in terms of obesity.