Most chain restaurant soda fountain drinks exceed full day’s worth of added sugars, report finds

More than three-quarters of New York state residents (78 percent) support government-required warnings on chain restaurant menu items with more than a day’s worth of added sugars. The support is consistently high across all demographic and political groups, according to a new poll conducted by Engine Insights.

The overwhelming support for sugar warnings among New Yorkers underscores the urgency of Bill 1326, currently under consideration by the New York City Council. The bill, sponsored by Councilmember Mark Levine, would require warning icons on chain restaurant menu items that exceed the daily limit for added sugars. It would be similar to the sodium warning icons already required for high-sodium menu items at chains.

“People are returning to restaurants and dining out more,” said Sarah Sorscher, Deputy Director of Regulatory Affairs at Center for Science in the Public Interest. “The sugar warnings policy would allow millions of New Yorkers to make more informed decisions about their own health by providing information on menus about the added sugars that are often hidden in restaurant foods and beverages.”

The poll was published alongside a new report, released by CSPI, that compared the sugar in standard soda fountain drinks to the “Daily Value” for added sugars. Daily Value is a recommended daily limit based on a 2,000-calorie diet— for added sugars, no more than 50 grams, or 12 teaspoons per day. The report found that the largest chains consistently serve up soda fountain drinks with more than a day’s worth of added sugars. Even most “small” drinks exceed the Daily Value; 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.”

The New York poll also underscores the need for better information on sugar content. It found that New Yorkers struggle to identify which menu items have more than a day’s worth of added sugars. Participants correctly identified the food and drink items with more than a day’s worth only about half the time, on average.

Read the New York poll results here.  

Read the report, Sweet Excess, here.