Festive drinks contain ‘shocking’ amount of sugar

festive drinks contain shocking amounts of sugarHigh street coffee chains are failing to reduce the sugar content of their festive drinks, a new survey shows.

The sugar content of some festive drinks contained the same amount of sugar as three cans of Coca Cola.

Furthermore, the survey showed all of the largest sizes surveyed would receive a red traffic light for sugars (>13.5g/portion).

‘It is shocking that so many high street coffee chains are wilfully putting their customers’ health at risk,’ Holly Gabriel, registered nutritionist at Action on Sugar, who carried out the survey, says.

‘That’s despite sugar reduction targets for sugary milk drinks being set in 2018.

‘Responsible coffee shops have shown reformulation is possible within this category.

‘For example, Costa has made some significant reductions in sugar since 2016.

‘It now offers smaller sizes as standard for seasonal drinks.

‘Coffee shops and cafes need to take much greater steps to reduce the levels of sugar and portion sizes, promote lower sugar alternatives and stop pushing indulgent extras at the till.’

Hot chocolates

A Starbucks Signature Caramel was the worst hot chocolate offender, containing 93.7g of sugar in a Venti-sized drink.

Action on Sugar summarised the sugar content of hot chocolates (highest available from each outlet):

 Outlet  Product name  Size Milk  used Calories per portion (kcal) Sugar per portion (g)
 Starbucks Signature Caramel Hot Chocolate  Venti Oat  758  93.7
 Caffe Nero Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream  Grande Skimmed  503  59.6
 EAT Honeycomb Hot Chocolate  Regular Semi-skimmed  449  47.0
 Costa White Hot Chocolate (take away)  Massimo Semi-skimmed  417  43.3
 Pret Hot Chocolate  Regular Rice-coconut  288  40.4
 KFC Cadbury’s Hot Chocolate  Regular Not stated  180  29.3
 Leon Hot Chocolate  Regular Whole  257  17.0

Despite their high sugar content, these drinks would not be eligible for the sugar tax.

‘All our drinks can be customised, such as asking for our smallest size; Short, requesting skimmed milk and less or no whipped cream,’ a Starbucks spokesperson told Dentistry.co.uk.

‘To help make it easier for customers to make informed choices, nutritional information is also available in-store, on our mobile app and online.

‘We are committed to reducing sugar in all our beverages.

‘Since 2015, we’ve delivered a 9% reduction in the sugar content of our Gingerbread and core syrup range of vanilla, caramel and hazelnut.’

Festive drinks

Again, Starbucks topped the table for including the most sugar in its seasonal lattes.

The sugar content of festive lattes (highest available from each outlet) includes:

 Outlet  Product name  Size  Milk used Calories per portion (kcal) Sugar per portion (g)
 Starbucks Gingerbread Latte  Venti Oat  523  56.6
 Costa Hazelnut Praline and Cream Latte (take away)  Medio Semi-skimmed  388  32.5
 Pret Rice-coconut Crème Brulee Latte  330g Rice-coconut  216  31.5
 Mcdonald’s Millionaire Latte  Large Semi-skimmed  248  29
 Caffe Nero Salted Caramel Latte  Grande Skimmed  160  28.6
 EAT Gingerbread Latte  Regular Semi-skimmed  206  23

Action on Sugar claims the amount of sugar in Starbucks’ Gingerbread Latte with oat milk is the equivalent of eating 17 custard cream biscuits.

‘It’s vital that whichever government is in power next week fully commits to the target to halve childhood obesity by 2030,’ Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar, said.

‘This will mean giving full control to PHE to deliver a robust prevention programme.

‘And the authority to ensure that a largely irresponsible food industry fully complies.

‘That must include taxing these sugary milk-based drinks in the same way as soft drinks.’

Sugar content increases

Despite pressure from government to reduce sugar content, 27% of directly comparable products have actually increased.

However, Action on Sugar highlights the work Costa has done to reduce sugar content by over 50% since 2016.

The top three increases and decreases in sugar since 2016 include:

 Café  Drink  2016 sugar per portion (g)  2019 sugar per portion (g)
 Decrease in sugar since 2016
 KFC  Mocha  45.1  21.0
 Costa Coffee  Chai Latte Massimo  79.7  39.0
 Costa Coffee  Mocha Massimo  51.7  25.7
 Increase in sugar since 2016
 Caffe Nero  White Chocolate Mocha  24.5  30.1
 Greggs  Hot Chocolate  33.0  42.0
 KFC  Vanilla Latte  19.0  26.0

‘It’s clear that restaurants and cafes are not doing enough to make our food and drink healthier,’ Matt Lambert, a nutritionist at World Cancer Research Fund, said.

So it is time for government to step-up and play their part.

‘That means ensuring food and drink consumed out of the home has clear calorie labelling.

‘And reducing the amount of sugar in food and drink in cafes and other food outlets.

‘Consuming too much sugar contributes to weight-gain.

‘Being overweight or obese increases the risk of at least 12 different types of cancer.

‘With 64% of adults in England being overweight or obese, suddenly, these festive drinks don’t seem so jolly anymore.’

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