Cheap deal on a frozen drink? It could cost your health

5 February 2015

Health groups warn: Don't get sucked in

Price promotions on sugary, frozen drinks are putting children's health on the line, seducing them to buy drinks containing up to 25 teaspoons of sugar on hot summer days.

New research conducted by Rethink Sugary Drink has revealed how popular convenience stores and fast food chains tempt consumers using price incentives such as three cent Slurpees when you buy another item and large Frozen Cokes for just $1, as well as gimmicks such as the option to add popping candy to your icy drink.

7-Eleven's Mega Slurp Slurpee with popping candy ‘shocks' is the biggest sugar culprit, serving up a whopping 25 teaspoons (101g) of sugar, while McDonald's Frozen Sprite Splash with popping candy delivers around 18 teaspoons (73g) of sugar.

Chair of the Public Health Committee at the Cancer Council Australia, Craig Sinclair, said that many consumers don't realise that although the price is low, the health impact can be significant if regularly consumed.

"During the summer months when some stores charge just three cents on Mondays for an icy drink or $1 for a large one, these incredibly cheap and creative offers can be difficult for both children and adults to resist," Mr Sinclair said.

"But with up to 25 teaspoons of sugar in one cup, these frozen drinks deliver a sugar hit far in excess of what is recommended for good health. All of those extra kilojoules, can lead to weight gain over the longer term, putting you at risk of serious long-term health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, kidney disease and stroke. They could really cost you your health in the long run."

Dr Peter Alldritt, Chairman of the Australian Dental Association Oral Health Committee, says the high sugar and acid content in frozen drinks also contributes significantly to tooth decay.

"The high sugar content in frozen drinks can harm your oral health, leading to tooth decay. They also have high acid levels that dissolve the outer surface of tooth enamel which weakens the tooth's protective mechanism placing it more at risk," Dr Alldritt says.

"Once dental enamel is destroyed, it is gone for good.

"They might seem like an inexpensive and fun way to cool down, but the long term cost can be serious. If you go with water or low-fat milk, your teeth will thank you."

Rethink Sugary Drink investigators found that many outlets do not disclose the true sugar content of their large serving sizes, making it even more difficult for consumers to make informed purchases.

"Some brands make nutrition information difficult to access. For 7-Eleven's Slurpee Mega Slurp, the sugar content is listed on product websites for 100g volume, while Hungry Jacks displays nutritional information for a 290g serve, but the true amount of sugar per cup can be much
greater than this," Mr Sinclair says.

"Our researchers had to take kitchen scales into stores to weigh the cups and multiply the sugar content to estimate the total sugar delivered."

Approximate amounts of sugar in popular frozen drinks∞

 Frozen drink  Sugar per serve+  Would take to burn off*
7-Eleven Slurpee Mega Slurp (Cola) with 'Slurpee Shocks' popping candy  25 tsp (101g)  1.5 hours walking at medium place
 McDonald's Bubble Gum Frozen Sprite Splash with popping candy  18 tsp (73g)  65 minutes walking
 Hungry Jacks Extra Large Frozen Coke  18 tsp (71g)   63 minutes walking
 Donut King Fruit Freeze Strawberry (regular)  14 tsp (55g)  48 mins walking

∞ based on estimates of the sugar content provided by McDonalds Australia for a Frozen Sprite Splash Green Apple product in January 2014 (no longer available), and the labelled sugar contained in accompanying ‘popping candy'. The sugar content of the Frozen Sprite Splash Bubble Gum could not be ascertained through investigations
+ based on 4g of sugar per teaspoon
* based on an 80kg person walking at medium pace (5km per hour). Source: MyFitnessPal