Soft drinks giants are being urged to drop the sugar content of drinks that are putting children at risk of diabetes after research shows many have even more sugar than cola.
The call comes from The Local Government Association (LGA), who tested the amount of sugar in a number of soft-drinks, as latest figures show that the NHS spends £1.5-million an hour on diabetes.
In a single can of Jamaica Inn ginger beer, there is 12 teaspoons of sugar, which is more than double the World Health Organisation's recommended daily allowance. It's equivalent to 58 grams of sugar, compared to 33 grams in an average-sized can of cola.
Ocean Spray cranberry juice, considered by many as a healthier option, contains 11 grams of sugar per 100 ml, while PomeGreat, which markets itself as a ‘super juice' drink, had 12.1 grams. Both says the sugars are from fructose and glucose and not from added sugar.
Lemonade drinks are also bad offenders, according to survey published last year by Action for Sugar, also campaigning for a reduction in the sugar content of drinks.
Made by the Coca-Cola Company, 7UP has 37 grams per 330 ml can - that's four more than Coca-Cola itself. Morissons lemonade had 36 grams, according to the survey which checked over 200 products in the week starting on June 2 last year.
And for those hoping to reduce alcoholic units, alternatives pose their own problems. Schloer, often used as an alternative to wine, has a higher sugar content than cola drinks, as did most shandy.
10 best non-alcoholic drinks
10 best non-alcoholic drinks
1/10 Belvoir Organic Elderflower Pressé, £2.29 for 75cl
Made from freshly picked flowers and spring water from its Belvoir fruit orchard in Lincolnshire, this makes a nice, cool accompaniment to dinner parties with friends on the wagon. Other flavours include English apple, cranberry and raspberry, and elderflower and rose.
2/10 Rochester Ginger, £3.99 for 725ml
A virgin alternative to Scotch. A kick of fresh ginger makes this a perfect drink for a chilly January, without having to hit the hard stuff. If in need of something with a bit more zing, there are also the dark- or root-ginger options.
3/10 Feel Good Peach Bellini cocktail, £2.49 for 750ml
With no added sugar and 100 per cent natural ingredients, these mixed drinks make up one of your five a day. The Peach Bellini is made from a blend of peach, apple, raspberry, orange, lemon, and the tropical berry acerola. If that’s a tad too sweet, you can also try the alcohol-free Buck’s fizz, mojito, or strawberry daiquiri.
4/10 Amé Grape and apricot, £2.29 for 750ml
A light, fruity drink from Britvic. Its Amé range also includes raspberry and blackberry, orange and grape, and a zesty elderflower and lemon. Refreshing and not too overpowering, it goes well with food or just on its own.
5/10 Fever-Tree Ginger Ale, £1.69 for 500ml
If you’re after a refreshing drink, Fever-Tree has a good range of mini bottles of grown-up pop, including lemonades, bitter lemons and tonics. Its ginger ale is particularly nice, especially if you’re after a subtler option than the Rochester.
6/10 Luscombe Wild Elderflower Bubbly, £5.99 for 4x32cl
Luscombe has been making grown-up non-alcoholic drinks in Devon since 1975. We like this elderflower fizz, but there are also a refreshing lime crush with a bite, a Sicilian lemonade, and a spicy hot ginger beer.
7/10 Peter Spanton No 5 Lemongrass Tonic, £18.98 for 24x200ml
Tired of sipping sparkling water all night, teetotaller Peter Spanton created his own range of alcohol-free drinks. The lemongrass flavour has a crisp, sour bite to it. For something a bit special, there’s also Stanton’s No 7, made from acai berries; it’s £3.50 a pop but a nice substitute for after-dinner port. The 200ml bottles are enough for one glass.
8/10 James White Beet It, £2.92 for 750ml
James White’s blend of beetroot juice with fresh apple juice is surprisingly sweet. Researchers have found that a cup of beetroot juice can also lower blood pressure. We like the table-friendly glass bottle but you can also buy cartons in major supermarkets.
9/10 Bottle green Morello Cherry and Grapefruit, £2.39 for 750ml
This is a typically innovative mix of flavours from Bottle Green. A tangy hint of grapefruit cuts through the sweet, natural cherry flavour, making it a refreshing alternative to wine at dinner parties.
10/10 Shloer Celebration Pink Fizz, £2.99 for 750ml
If only bubbles will do, then this is a good choice for an inclusive toast. There’s also a white-grape version of the sparkling drink, and a variety of non-sparkling flavours that are widely available.
The LGA, comprising of 300 local councils, has already secured a commitment from Britvic, which makes J2O, Robinsons and Fruit Shoots, to reduce the content in their drinks, but now want the Government to use some of the VAT raised on drinks, sweets, crisps and takeaways to be invested in health facilites.
Research shows that 3.5-million children in Britain are now obese and under-10s get almost a fifth of their sugar intake from drinks. In 11-18-year-olds, it's closer to a third.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chair of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said: "It is wholly unacceptable for one normal-sized can of soft drink to contain 12 teaspoons of sugar – double the recommended daily limit. Products like these are fuelling the obesity crisis and helping wean a generation of overweight children.
"Some firms are showing willing when it comes to reducing sugar - but others are simply dragging their heels. They need to go further, faster. We are calling on the sector as a whole to step up and show more corporate responsibility.
"In many cases, people are unaware of exactly how much sugar these fizzy drinks contain. Manufacturers must also provide clearer, larger and more prominent labelling which spells out the sugar content. It is crucial to tackle obesity at an early age. Overweight five-year-olds are four times more likely to be obese than their healthy weight counterparts.
"Investing in obesity prevention is the key. Councils are already taking action locally to tackle obesity, but would be able to significantly ramp up these efforts, benefiting millions more, under the LGA's plans for a fifth of existing VAT raised from sugary drinks, crisps, takeaways and sweets to go to council-run grassroots initiatives. Local authorities are currently commissioning weight management services, exercise referral schemes and extending the offer of free or reduced-cost sport – for example swimming – and leisure facilities.
"Additional funding would enable us to do so much more. This would help transform the lives of the millions of overweight or obese children in this country which would more than pay for itself by reducing the huge cost to the public purse of obesity."