'Shocking' amounts of sugar found in popular hot drinks

Starbucks hot chocolate
CC BY 2.0 Calgary Reviews

A British campaign group called 'Action on Sugar' criticizes coffee shops like Starbucks for selling hot drinks with excessive amounts of sugar.

A new study by campaign group Action on Sugar has found “shocking” amounts of sugar in many popular hot drinks sold in the United Kingdom.

In the most extreme cases, some of the drinks contain 25 teaspoons of sugar, which is equivalent to more than 3 cans of Coca-Cola or Pepsi – in a single takeout cup! More than one-third contains 9 teaspoons of sugar per drink, which is equivalent to drinking a can of Coca-Cola or eating seven chocolate cookies.

Action on Sugar tested 131 large-portion drinks, and determined that if retailers had to use a red warning label to notify customers of excessive amounts of sugar, then 98 percent of the drinks would have one.

“Worryingly, from the entire out-of-home hot drinks surveyed, 55 percent contain the equivalent, or more than, the maximum daily recommended amount of sugars for an adult and teenager (30g or 7 teaspoons per day).”

Coffee shops have become trendy destinations for many people, even non-coffee drinkers, which is why retailers have introduced a wide selection of sweetened chai, mulled fruit drinks, hot chocolate, steamers, and more. Many of these contain high sugar syrups to add flavor. An estimated 20 percent of Britons buys a hot drink daily.

Action on Sugar suspects that many of these customers don’t realize how much sugar is in the drinks they buy, and wants coffee chains to stop offering extra-large portions, particularly Starbucks, which sells two sizes larger than a typical medium size serving: “These serving sizes are much larger than those offered by its competitors. It is time coffee chains stopped serving extra-large cups of sugar-laden hot drinks.”

Starbucks has stated: “Earlier this year we committed to reduce added sugar in our indulgent drinks by 25 percent by the end of 2020. We also offer a wide variety of lighter options, sugar-free syrups and sugar-free natural sweetener and we display all nutritional information in-store and online."

‘Indulgent’ is, of course, the right term to describe such hot drinks. These are meant to be occasional treats, not daily staples, especially when accompanied by a sugary, fat-laden snack.

According to the Guardian, Action on Sugar wants a “50 percent reduction in sugar and a 20 percent reduction in fat in all unhealthy drinks and foods within five years, and a ban on all forms of advertising of unhealthy foods and drinks to children and adolescents.

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