France Moves To Ban Free Refills

By Blake Neff

Free soda refills may be a glorious tradition in the United States, but across the pond, in France, they could soon be illegal. In a bid to curb the country’s rising obesity rate, the French parliament nearly-unanimously voted on April 1 to ban all free refills on sugary drinks.

The ban, which still must be approved by the country’s Senate, would cover all soda fountains and soft drinks served in places open to the public, such as fast food restaurants. The only drink allowed to be served in limitless quantities without charge will be water. The action is the culmination of efforts that have existed for several months. Last September, the country’s health minister called for a ban.

“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,” the government’s official nutrition organization said in a statement, according to The Independent.

Free refills aren’t as common in Europe as in the United States, but with the perfusion of American-style fast food joints like KFC the option has become more widespread. The controversy over free refills became particularly pronounced when they were introduced by the French burger chain Quick, which has over 400 locations in the country.

France has long been one of the least obese European countries, but its obesity rate has nonetheless been growing in recent years. From 1997 to 2012, obesity in France roughly doubled, and now over 15 percent of Frenchmen are obese while nearly 40 percent are overweight.

Banning refills is hardly the first effort the French have made to stem the tide of fatness. The country has already banned junk food vending machines from schools and levied extra taxes on companies that market unhealthy foods. The government even banned ketchup from school meals.

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