High street coffee chains are failing to reduce the amount of sugar in their festive hot drinks despite the government's sugar reduction programme, with some hot drinks increasing in sugar since 2016.
According to a new survey by Action on Sugar, many chains are failing to make progress towards Public Health England's voluntary sugar reduction targets.
The survey, which analysed both the sugar and calorie content of the largest available sizes of hot chocolates and seasonal lattes made with milk and milk alternatives, revealed certain seasonal beverages contain almost as much sugar as three cans of Coca Cola.
The worst hot chocolate ‘offender' was Starbucks' signature caramel hot chocolate with whipped cream, using oat milk (venti), which contained 23 teaspoons (93.7g) of sugar in one drink, and 758 calories. Meanwhile, the coffee chain's gingerbread latte (venti, made with oat milk) contained 56.6g of sugar. And in 2016, a regular vanilla latte in KFC had 19g sugar per serve but this has increased to 26g.
However, the survey noted some brands such as Costa had made some significant reductions in sugar and now offer smaller sizes as standard for seasonal drinks.
Katharine Jenner, campaign director at Action on Sugar, added that the hospitality industry has a "key role to play in being transparent to help reduce the amount of sugar we consume" and companies "must improve the flow of healthy options bought by always displaying clear nutrition information at the point of sale".
Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar, said: "It's vital that whichever government is in power next week fully commits to the target to halve childhood obesity by 2030, and to the current agreed Childhood Obesity Plan Chapter 211. This will mean giving full control to PHE to deliver a robust prevention programme and the authority to ensure that a largely irresponsible food industry fully complies – and that must include taxing these sugary milk-based drinks in the same way as soft drinks."