Most Chain Restaurant Soda Fountain Drinks Exceed Day’s Worth of Added Sugars, Report Finds

Strong support for warning icons on chain restaurant sugary drinks, according to New York poll

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Most soda fountain drinks served by restaurant chains contain more than a day’s worth of added sugars, according to a new report released today by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The report, Sweet Excess, assessed the amounts of added sugars in full-calorie soda fountain drinks across the top 20 restaurant chains by revenue. 

It found that even most “small” drinks exceed the Daily Value, a recommended daily limit of no more than 50 grams, or 12 teaspoons, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Most chains pack one and a half days’ worth or more of added sugars into a single “medium” or “regular” drink, and two days’ worth into a “large.” Most drinks sold as the default with meal combinations also exceed the Daily Value. Notably, the amount of added sugars in the same size soda varies by as much as threefold from chain to chain.  

Table 1: Added Sugars in Full-Calorie Fountain Cola Drinks at Top 20 Chain Restaurants 

Size 

Median, 

grams 

%DV 

Exceeding 

DV/Total 

Kid’s* 

40g 

80% 

1/5 

Below Small* 

53g 

106% 

3/5 

Small* 

65g 

130% 

13/17 

Medium/ Regular 

75g 

150% 

18/20 

Large 

109g 

218% 

20/20 

Default* 

70g 

140% 

14/17 

The report was published alongside a new poll showing that three-quarters of New York State residents support requiring chain restaurants to publish warning icons on menus to identify items containing more than a day’s worth of added sugars. 

“People are returning to restaurants and dining out more,” said Sarah Sorscher, Deputy Director of Regulatory Affairs at CSPI. “Sugar warnings would allow all of us to make more informed decisions about our own health by providing information on menus about the added sugars that are often hidden in restaurant foods and beverages.” 

To curb the marketing of extreme sugary drinks in chain restaurant meals, the report recommended state and local policies requiring warning icons on menus to show excessive sugar content. One such proposal in New York City, Council Bill 1326, would require a warning icon on menu items that exceed the 50-gram Daily Value for added sugars. 

Read the report, Sweet Excess, here

Read the New York poll here

Contact Info: 

Katherine Shek, kshek@cspinet.org; Tia Schwab, tschwab@cspinet.org