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Queen Mary research group call for ban on excessively high sugar and calorie milkshakes

 A new survey by Action on Sugar, based at Queen Mary University of London, found that high levels of sugar and calories are hidden in milkshakes sold across high street restaurants and fast food chains.

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A ‘Unicorn Freakshake’ from family restaurant Toby Carvery was found to contain 39 teaspoons of sugar which is over six times the recommended daily amount of sugar for a 7- to 10-year-old.

1,280 calories per serving

Public Health England’s (PHE) sugar reduction targets include a cap on milkshake products likely to be consumed in a single occasion to 300 calories. However, a milkshake such as the Unicorn Freakshake at 1,280 kcal per serving is more than half the daily-recommended amount of calories for an adult and four times PHE’s proposed calorie limit.

Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary’s Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and Chairman of Action on Sugar said: “Despite milkshakes being incorporated into the Public Health England’s 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 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. These high calorie milkshakes need to be reduced immediately below the 300kcal per serving.”

Excessive levels of sugar

This new research concludes that all products sold in high street restaurants and fast food chains, with nutrition labelling available online, would receive a ‘red’ (high) label for excessive levels of sugar per serving.

Registered Nutritionist and Researcher at Queen Mary’s Action on Sugar, Kawther Hashem, said: “Undoubtedly some of these milkshakes contribute to excess sugar and calorie intake, and it is 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.”

Campaigners call for mandatory nutrition labelling

Action on Sugar is now calling for mandatory coloured nutrition labelling across all menus, while the UK government is consulting on menu calorie labelling.

The group is also calling for a ban on the sale of milkshakes that exceed a calorie limit of 300 kcal per serving. This contrasts with Public Health England’s ambition to achieve only a 10 per cent reduction in sugar by mid-2019 and a further 10 per cent by mid-2021 to meet the 20 per cent overall target.

More information

  • Find out more about Action on Sugar, based at Queen Mary University of London
  • Study Medicine MBBS at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London.

For media information, contact:

Joel Winston
Faculty Communications Manager (Medicine and Dentistry)