Freakshakes and milkshakes sold in high street restaurants and fast food chains contain up to 39 teaspoons of sugar, more than half the daily limit for calories for an adult, a new survey has found.
Action on Sugar, a registered charity concerned with sugar and its effects on health, surveyed milkshakes sold in restaurants and fast food shops across the UK and found they contained “grotesque levels of sugar and calories”.
The Toby Carvery 'Unicorn Freakshake' – a mashup of milkshake, dessert and toppings – topped the list with one serving coming in at 1,280 calories and 39 teaspoons of sugar.
That is more than half the daily recommended amount of calories for an adult and more than six times the amount of sugar recommended for seven to 10-year-olds.
Fast food restaurant Five Guys came in at second and third on the list for its banana and chocolate mix-in and cherry mix-in milkshakes, which contained 37 and 30 teaspoons of sugar respectively; the equivalent of drinking more than four cans of Coca Cola.
As a result of the findings, which have been published as part of Sugar Awareness Week, Action on Sugar is calling for a ban on all milkshakes that exceed 300 calories per serving and has urged the government to introduce mandatory “traffic light” colour-coded nutritional labelling across all menus.
Public Health England is looking to companies to reduce the amount of sugar in their products by 20 per cent by 2021, however, Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar, says the cuts don’t go far enough.
“These very high calorie drinks if consumed on a daily basis, would result in children becoming obese and suffer from tooth decay – that is not acceptable,” he says.
“Despite milkshakes being incorporated into the Public Health England’s (PHE) Sugar Reduction Programme as part of the government’s childhood obesity plan, it is clear from our survey that much more needs to be done than a 20 per cent reduction.
“These high calorie milkshakes need to be reduced immediately below the 300kcal per serving.”
Registered nutritionist, Kawther Hashem, a researcher at Action on Sugar based at Queen Mary added that it was “shocking this information is hidden from the consumer, who would struggle to find it.”
“It is time the government introduced legislation to force companies to be more transparent about what is in their products by displaying clear nutrition information online and in the outlets, at all times.”
In response to the findings, Caroline Cerny, Obesity Health Alliance lead, tells The Independent: "The calorie and sugar content of these so-called ‘freakshakes’ is shocking.
"We know that one in three children are leaving primary school with a weight classified as overweight or obese, increasing their risk of developing serious conditions like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer in later life.
"With products like freakshakes undoubtedly contributing to excess sugar and calorie consumption, it is clear that industry need to take more responsibility and help people make healthier choices through measures such as clearer calorie labelling on menus in the out of home sector".
Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, echoed this by adding: “Obscene amounts of hidden sugar in our food can lead to weight gain and obesity which can increase the risk of 13 different types of cancer.
"It’s particularly worrying that so many of these shakes are designed to appeal to young people as obese children are five times more likely to be obese as an adult. This report is another reminder that we need the government to put the childhood obesity plan into action and restrict junk food marketing and promotions and introduce calorie labelling to help families make the healthier choice, the easier choice.”
The Independent has contacted Toby Carvery and Five Guys for comment.
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