Milkshakes and so-called ‘freakshakes’ are the latest target of anti-sugar campaigners, due to the vast amounts of sugar and calories that they often contain.
Action on Sugar, a group of specialists campaigning to reduce the amount of sugar in processed foods, say that “milkshakes sold across high street restaurants and fast food chains contain grotesque levels of sugar”.
In particular the ‘freakshake’, a cross between a milkshake and a dessert that is increasingly featuring on restaurant menus, has been placed under the spotlight. These shakes can contain as many as 39 teaspoons (156g) of sugar, which is over six times the recommended daily amount for a child aged 7-10.
Action on Sugar has called for mandatory traffic-light nutritional labelling to be added to menus on fast food chains and restaurants. It also wants to see a ban on sale of milkshakes containing over 300 kcal per serving. Public Health England (PHE) suggests such a limit, but this is not currently enforced.
It is hoped that the proposed changes would provide more transparency around the healthfulness of restaurant and fast food menu items as currently, nutritional information is not always made available to customers. Action on Sugar has criticised the “unacceptable marketing” which is sometimes employed to sell sugary beverages and desserts and can be particularly enticing to children.
The Action on Sugar movement is supported by a number of health charities and independent campaigners. Their most recent statements come as part of Sugar Awareness Week, running from 12-18 November this year, with this year’s chosen theme being ‘eating out’.
The worst offender, according to an Action on Sugar survey, is Toby Carvery’s Unicorn Freakshake, containing the aforementioned 39 teaspoons (156g) of sugar. This was followed closely by Five Guys’ banana and chocolate milkshake at 37 teaspoons (149g). Both these shakes contain over 1000 kcal. A 300 kcal limit on shakes would automatically ban these treats, along with similar items from Pizza Hut, Harvester and Burger King.
Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at PHE, said: “Milkshakes can contain significant amounts of sugar. Consuming too much sugar contributes to children leaving primary school overweight or obese and suffering with tooth decay. The industry has a key role in helping to tackle this by reducing the amount of sugar we buy and consume and we hope to see them step up to the challenge.”
Toby Carvery and Harvester have reportedly joined PHE’s sugar reduction schemen, which encourages the food industry to voluntarily reduce sugar levels by 2022.
Earlier this year the government made proposals for calories to be listed on menu items, which the public was consulted on. The plans have faced criticism from the Treasury because it believes publishing calorie content could trouble small businesses.

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