McDonald’s is all set to introduce a ‘healthy’ fizzy drink for children that promises one of their five-a-day portions of fruit and vegetables. However the drink is packed with sugar and calories.
The new drink, called Fruitizz, is part of the fast food giant's efforts to improve the health credentials of its children's meals. It follows the introduction of carrot sticks, fruit bags, mineral water and organic semi-skimmed milk to its Happy Meal menu.
It will be available from the central drinks tower at the counter, alongside other soft drink staples, as research discovered children found this ‘more exciting and desirable’, according to the chain. McDonald's said the drink contains no added sugars, artificial colours or flavours and blends 60 per cent fruit juice from grapes, apples and raspberries with natural sparkling water, giving one of the five-a-day portions. The drink will be available from May 16.
McDonald's chief executive and president Jill McDonald said, “We are thrilled to be unveiling Fruitizz, a refreshing fizzy fruit juice drink that will help parents give children one of their five-a-day. For the past three years, we have been working hard behind the scenes to create a fizzy drink that is unlike anything else currently available in high street restaurants. We tried and tested 80 formulations in order to create the right product that delivers nutritional benefit as well as a new, exciting taste.”
Children's Food Campaign spokesman Malcolm Clark said, “It's encouraging to see companies like McDonald's making it easier for parents to make healthier choices for their children. The best news for children's health will be if fruit-based drinks start to displace sugary drinks such as Coca-Cola from children's menus in McDonald's.”
Jo Webster, head of family marketing at McDonald’s UK, says, “It is so important to us that our products are loved by kids and appreciated by mums and dads. We have taken a long time to ensure we get Fruitizz right, but we’re thrilled with the results. Trials show that three quarters of people who bought Fruitizz would buy it again. Along with introducing fruit bags and carrot sticks, Fruitizz is another example of how we are evolving the McDonald’s menu, and we will continue to keep in step with what parents are looking for.”
But a large 500ml cup still contains 49 grams of sugar - while health bosses recommend youngsters have no more than 50 grams in a day. The drink also contains 200 calories. Dietitian Christina Merryfield, of London’s Bupa Cromwell Hospital, told The Sun, “A large cup of this drink has more sugar than a can of Fanta. Sugary drinks can encourage tooth decay and erosion and lead to weight gain. Water is a much better option and milk is great because it is full of calcium and other vitamins and minerals.”
Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum said, “For a drink purporting to be healthy having this much sugar is appalling. The danger to children is incredible.”
A McDonald's spokesman said, “It is very difficult to reduce the calorie content of fruit juice without introducing artificial sweeteners.”
McDonald's has previously come under fire for offering a breakfast wrap that contains 595 calories – almost a third of the daily recommended amount. A Big Mac has 490 calories. One wrap also contains almost half of a person’s daily allowance of fat and saturated fat and 2.3g of salt. This is almost half the recommended salt limit of 6g a day for adults – and more than half a child’s allowance of 4g.
McDonald’s is currently giving away millions of activity toys and vouchers for sports as part of a Happy Meals Olympic promotion.