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Fast food chains slammed for ‘cashing in’ on high-sugar frozen drinks

By RJ Whitehead , 30-Jan-2014

Fast food chains slammed for ‘cashing in’ on high-sugar frozen drinks

Health groups in Australia have hit out at fast food chains that they say are “cashing in” by promoting seductively cheap frozen drinks that in many cases contain what they call “surprisingly large” amounts of added sugar. 

To a backdrop of an obesity epidemic in the country that is showing no signs of slowing down, products and promotions like McDonald's “Frozen Sprite Splash” range with free refills and Hungry Jack's A$1 (US$0.87) deal on large frozen Cokes are being heavily marketed to Aussie consumers through comprehensive advertising campaigns and point-of-sale promotions.

More than expected

According to Craig Sinclair, director of prevention at Cancer Council Victoria, people might rethink their frozen drinks if they knew how much sugar was in them.

A large frozen Sprite Splash from McDonald's followed by a free refill contains 120 grams of sugar, equivalent to 30 teaspoons. A large frozen coke from Hungry Jack's includes about 84 grams, or 21 teaspoons of sugar, and will set customers back just $1. 

If consumers are feeling particularly thirsty, for one extra dollar they can upgrade to an extra large serve that equates to 30 teaspoons of sugar—equivalent to the sugar content of ten fun size Mars bars or three cans of Coke.

"The World Health Organisation, World Cancer Research Fund and Australian Dietary Guidelines all agree we need to limit the amount of added sugar in our diets and recommend that sugary drink consumption be restricted or avoided altogether,” Sinclair said.

"At a time when nearly two thirds of Australian adults and a quarter of children are overweight or obese, actively promoting excessive consumption of such high-sugar products is completely irresponsible.”

Consumer awareness

Since 2003 the WHO has recommended limiting the intake of so-called “free sugars” to 10% of total energy intake, referring to sugars added to food by the manufacturer, cook or consumer.

Sinclair believes consumers should be wary of marketing ploys that normalise the excessive consumption of high sugar products like frozen soft drinks.

"Fast food chains are in the business of making money, not in the business of health, and they have enormous marketing budgets to push this type of sugar-laden product into our diets.”

"It's important for consumers to be aware of what they're drinking, including how much sugar is in these products and the potential detrimental impact to their health from high consumption.”

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