President Maithripala Sirisena’s unprecedented attack on a single product which included a threat to campaign across the country with the particular drink (Milo) in hand has raised serious questions about motive.
President Sirisena, launching a walk on Sunday November 12th to mark World Diabetes Day which falls on Tuesday, called on Nestle’s Milo to reduce the sugar content in the popular drink.
He threatened a nation-wide campaign unless Nestle reduced the sugar content from the current 16.5% to less than 5%.
The President is also reported to have asked Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera to extend the sugar tax on soft drinks to all forms of sweetened beverages. The 2018 budget slapped a 50 cent tax on each gram of sugar in soft drinks with effect from Thursday night. Such mechanisms to combat the ‘pure, white and deadly’ substance that is sugar are not new, with many countries using taxes to discourage consumption or force manufacturers to lower sugar content to avoid taxes.
While the move against sugar consumption is timely considering the increasing incidence of Diabetes with 7% of all deaths being caused by this disease, it has baffled many as to why the President singled out Milo when it is not the only fizzy milk based drink in the market.
For example, Anchor Newdale, a product of Fonterra whose milk-powder products ran into trouble a few years ago due to DCD contamination, also markets similar drinks with similar sugar content.
While the impact of the President’s move to attack fizzy milk drinks selectively is yet unknown, the strange and unprecedented manner of his campaign raises the question whether the President has been manipulated by a competitor struggling to maintain profit margins in an unfriendly policy environment.
Regardless of the true motive, the President’s statements and the threats issued are clearly unethical.
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