‘Health halo’ hides a sugar moun­tain in ve­gan drinks

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Sarah Knap­ton SCI­ENCE ED­I­TOR

DRINKS con­tain­ing al­ter­na­tive milks may be less healthy than those made with cow’s milk, health ex­perts have warned, as they urged shop­pers not to be fooled by “health halo” ve­gan foods.

A study of sea­sonal hot drinks by Ac­tion on Sugar found many cof­fee shops did not ad­e­quately la­bel drinks con­tain­ing al­ter­na­tive milks to show just how much sugar they con­tained.

Star­buck’s oat milk venti latte has more than seven tea­spoons of sugar (29.5g) and 350 calories while the same drink made with semi-skimmed milk, has just five tea­spoons and fewer than half the calories (168).

The chain’s sig­na­ture caramel hot choco­late with whipped cream us­ing oat milk, had more than 23 tea­spoons of sugar, the equiv­a­lent of con­sum­ing four white choco­late and straw­berry muffins or three cans of Coca-cola.

Sim­i­larly, Pret’s reg­u­lar hot choco­late with rice-co­conut milk con­tains 10 tea­spoons of sugar com­pared with Leon’s whole milk ver­sion, at just four.

Ac­tion on Sugar warned that con­sumers want­ing an al­ter­na­tive to cow’s milk were un­know­ingly con­sum­ing ex­ces­sive sugar due to lack of la­belling and the “health halo” of ve­gan op­tions.

Switch­ing from oat milk to al­mond milk could cut the sugar con­tent of drinks by nearly one third.

Katharine Jen­ner, the Ac­tion on Sugar cam­paign di­rec­tor, based at Queen Mary Univer­sity of Lon­don, said: “Cus­tomers look­ing for dairy al­ter­na­tives could be shocked to learn that many cof­fee shops and cafés use pre-sweet­ened al­ter­na­tive milks as the nutri­tion in­for­ma­tion is of­ten very dif­fi­cult to find – with in­for­ma­tion only avail­able on web­sites or not at all.”

The group has called for the sug­ary drinks tax to be ex­tended to milky drinks and those with added syrups.

It warned that many high-street cof­fee chains were fail­ing to re­duce the sugar in their drinks, and even ramp­ing up the con­tent for Christ­mas.

All the largest size prod­ucts sur­veyed would re­ceive a red traf­fic light for sugar, more than 13.5g per serv­ing, with the ex­cep­tions be­ing Costa’s gin­ger­bread lat­tes and Pret’s soya pump­kin spice latte, which would be am­ber.

Star­bucks’ gin­ger­bread latte with oat milk has 14 tea­spoons of sugar (56.6g) and 523 calories – the equiv­a­lent of eat­ing 17 cus­tard creams. A reg­u­lar latte con­tains just 29.5g of sugar.

Caffè Nero’s salted caramel hot choco­late (grande) with skimmed milk has nearly 15 tea­spoons of sugar (59.6g) and 503 calories. A nor­mal hot choco­late has nearly two tea­spoons less sugar.

Some stores have even in­creased their sugar con­tent since the last sur­vey was done three years ago. In 2016, a reg­u­lar KFC vanilla latte had 19g of sugar, but now has 26g.

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