Australian health organisations warn against frozen soft drinks

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 29th January 2014
Frozen soft drinks contain more sugar than most consumers realise, health organisations warn

While Australians look for ways to keep cool this summer, many fast food chains are cashing in by promoting cheap frozen drinks that in many cases contain “surprisingly large amounts” of added sugar, according to health organisation the Cancer Council.

The Cancer Council said products and promotions like McDonald’s ‘Frozen Sprite Splash’ range with free refills and Hungry Jack’s $1 deal on large frozen Cokes are being heavily marketed to Australian consumers advertising campaigns and point-of-sale promotions.

According to Craig Sinclair, Director of Prevention at Cancer Council Victoria, a partner of the health campaign ‘Rethink Sugary Drink’, people might rethink their frozen drinks if they knew how much sugar was in them.

The Cancer Council said a large frozen Sprite Splash from McDonald’s followed by a free refill contained 120 grams of sugar, equivalent to 30 teaspoons. A large frozen Coke from Hungry Jack’s included about 84 grams, or 21 teaspoons of sugar. If consumers are particularly thirsty, for an extra dollar they can upgrade to an ‘extra large’ serve, which would bring the sugar serving to 30 teaspoons, equivalent to the sugar content of ten ‘fun-size’ Mars Bars or three cans of Coke.

“We now know there is a clear link between drinking soft drinks regularly and weight gain and obesity, and of course being overweight or obese can lead to a myriad of chronic health problems including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, some cancers and poor dental health,” Mr Sinclair said.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO), 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,” Mr Sinclair said.

The Cancer Council said a frozen soft drink “as an occasional treat” would not be a problem.

“However 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,” Mr Sinclair said.

Mr Sinclair said he believed consumers should be wary of “marketing ploys” that normalised 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,” Mr Sinclair said. “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. We encourage those who drink these sugar-filled beverages on a regular basis to switch to water or other sugar-free alternatives,” he said.

Diana Heggie, CEO of the Heart Foundation Victoria, which is also involved in the ‘Rethink Sugary Drink’ campaign, said sugary drinks “have little nutritional benefit and add lots of excess kilojoules”.

“If an average man in his early 20s was to have one of these large frozen sugary drinks, it would be doubling his recommended daily amount of added sugar from just this single product,” Ms Heggie said. “The reality is this would mean he would need to jog for 45 minutes to burn off all the empty kilojoules,” she said.

Approximate amounts of sugar in frozen drinks

  • A McDonald’s Frozen Sprite Splash plus free refill contains 120g (30 teaspoons) of sugar in total

  • A large Hungry Jack’s Frozen Coke contains 84g (21 teaspoons) and an extra large serve has 120g (30 teaspoons) of sugar.

  • A large 7-Eleven Cola Slurpee contains 84g (21 teaspoons), a ‘super’ size contains 115g (29 teaspoons) and a ‘mega’ serving contains 152g (38 teaspoons) of sugar.

  • A regular Frozen Coke at Donut King contains 1,070 kilojoules. Donut King does not disclose the amount of sugar in its frozen soft drinks range however the Cancer Council said it could be assumed the majority of these kilojoules come from added sugar. If so it would represent 62g (15 teaspoons) of sugar.

About Rethink Sugary Drink

Rethink Sugary Drink is a partnership between Cancer Council Australia, Diabetes Australia and Heart Foundation (Victoria), and aims to raise awareness of the amount of sugar in sugar-sweetened beverages and encourage Australians to reduce their consumption. Rethink Sugary Drink is supported by Australian Dental Association Inc, Nutrition Australia, National Stroke Foundation, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and Kidney Health Australia.