Free soda: France bans unlimited sugary drink refills

A soda fountain in New York (file image)

Restaurants and other spaces catering to the public in France have been banned from offering unlimited sugary drinks in an effort to reduce obesity.

It is now illegal to sell unlimited soft drinks at a fixed price or offer them unlimited for free.

The number of overweight or obese people in France is below the EU average but is on the rise.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends taxing sugary drinks, linking them to obesity and diabetes.

Self-service “soda fountains” have long been a feature of family restaurants and cafes in some countries like the UK, where a soft drinks tax will be introduced next year.

The new law [in French] targets soft drinks, including sports drinks containing added sugar or sweeteners.

Obesity in Europe

Of people aged 18 and over in EU countries…


are obese

  • Highest obesity in Malta 26%
  • Second lowest is Italy 10.7%
  • France 15.3%
  • Among children across EU 5.7%
Getty Images

All public eateries, from fast-food joints to school canteens, are affected.

The aim of the law is to “limit, especially among the young, the risks of obesity, overweight and diabetes” in line with WHO recommendations.

A recent Eurostat survey of adult obesity put the French at 15.3%, which is just below the EU average of 15.9%. France was slimmer than the UK (20.1%) but fatter than Italy (10.7%).

Past the age of 30, nearly 57% of French men are overweight or obese, according to a report published in October by the French medical journal Bulletin Epidemiologique Hebdomadaire.

Some 41% of women in the same age category are also overweight or obese, the study found.

Soft drink controls that fizzed or went flat

Bottles of Coca Cola on a supermarket shelfImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
  • A 10% tax introduced in Mexico – where cola is so popular it’s used to cook meat – reduced consumption by 6% in the first year
  • Before the all-you-can-drink ban, France already had a soft drinks tax, and vending machines are barred from schools
  • A plan to ban “super sized” sugary drinks in New York, was blocked by a court in 2013