Call for UK ban on ‘grotesquely sugary’ freakshakes

Laverne Higgins
November 16, 2018

The carvery chain's unicorn freakshake, which contains the equivalent of 39 teaspoons of sugar and 1,280 calories, was named by the charity as the most "shocking shake", with the United States burger chain's banana and chocolate and cherry milkshakes also named and shamed for their high sugar and calorie content, which were said to contain as much sugar as four cans of cola.

The group - which is made up of specialists working on links between sugar and its effects on health, looked into such drinks sold in United Kingdom restaurants and fast food chains, and found that many contain "grotesque" levels of both sugar and calories.

"However, a milkshake such as Toby Carvery Unicorn Freakshake at 1280 kcal per serving is more than half the daily-recommended amount of calories for an adult and four times PHE's proposed calorie limit". This is over six times the recommended daily amount of sugar for a seven to 10-year-old.

Two so-called freakshakes - a mixture of milkshake and assorted toppings - from Five Guys were second and third on the list, with 37 and 30 teaspoons in the banana and chocolate mix-in and cherry mix-in respectively.

Action on Sugar, based at Queen Mary University of London, looked at 140 shakes served in United Kingdom restaurants and found, not surprisingly, that the mash-ups contain "grotesque levels of sugar and calories".

This contrasts with Public Health England's ambition to achieve only a 10% reduction in sugar by mid-2019 and a further 10% by mid-2021 to meet the 20% overall target, which will still leave these milkshakes with vast and unnecessary amounts of sugar.

Both companies told the BBC that they shared their nutritional information online, took their nutritional responsibilities seriously, and are committed to the Government's plans to reduce sugar in food. It is challenging businesses to cut sugar by 20% by 2020 and milkshakes are included in that.

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The agency cited survey data showing that mint and menthol flavors were more popular with adult e-cigarette users than teenagers. In an open letter issued by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, he described youth use of e-cigarettes as an "epidemic".

Action on Sugar chairman Graham MacGregor, professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at London's Queen Mary University, said that does not go far enough.

The health group also criticized the tactics of companies including TGI Fridays for "irresponsibly" obscuring nutritional information and engaging in "unacceptable" marketing that encourages consumers to view sugar- and calorie-packed freakshakes as suitable for "every day celebrations".

"There should be a limit of 300 calories per serving on these drinks".

'These high calorie milkshakes need to be reduced immediately below the 300kcal per serving'.

The milkshake with the highest levels of sugar was a 400ml bottle of Müller Milk Frijj Chocolate Flavour, which contains 304 calories and 42.8g of sugar, equivalent to 11 teaspoons of sugar or four KitKats.

A Toby Carvery spokesperson said: "Freakshakes only feature on our main menu and are not targeted at children". "The food and drink industry - including restaurants, manufacturers and retailers - 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".

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