Back to school warning: 'healthy' kids' fruit drinks contain more sugar than soft drinks

13 Apr 2015

Many popular children's fruit drinks which promote themselves as healthy options have been found to contain up to 7 teaspoons of sugar – even more sugar than for the same amount of Coke.

An analysis by the Obesity Policy Coalition has revealed how popular lunchbox-sized fruit drinks on Australian supermarket shelves use healthy sounding statements on their labels despite their high sugar content.

Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, says "Popular brands market these products as healthy, every day options for kids' lunchboxes, when in actual fact many contain as much sugar, and sometimes more, than Coca-Cola.

"Using marketing spin such as ‘30% less sugar', ‘high in vitamin C' or ‘free from artificial colours or flavours' can make products appear to be a healthy option. But with some containing more than 7 teaspoons of sugar and as little as 25 per cent fruit juice per serve, they deliver a significant sugar hit without the fibre or nutrients children would get from eating a piece of fruit."

Golden Circle Sunshine Punch and Golden Circle Pine Orange fruit drinks were the worst offenders with 7 teaspoons of sugar each per 250mL serve which is more than for the same amount of Coke (6.6 teaspoons).

Close behind were Homebrand's Orange and Mango and Golden Circle's Apple fruit drinks, both with 6.7 teaspoons (26.8g) per 250ml.

These fruit drinks contribute added sugar to children's diets and can lead to excess energy consumption and poor dental health. Diets high in added sugar can lead to overweight and obesity, putting kids at risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes and cancer in future. 

The World Health Organisation recommends that added sugars make up a maximum of 10 per cent of people's daily energy, and ideally no more than 5 per cent (or 6 teaspoons per day) for the biggest health benefit. Some of these fruit drinks deliver more than the ideal recommended sugar intake for adults in one hit.

"Most parents wouldn't dream of putting soft drink in their children's lunchboxes, however many of these fruit drinks should also be consumed occasionally, not every day. Water and a piece of fruit are much healthier choices," Ms Martin says.

"The healthy-sounding labels are a big part of the problem. The OPC is urging parents to be wary of healthy-sounding claims on fruit drink products and to provide water with a piece of fruit as an alternative to a sugary drink. Whole fruit is a preferable source of vitamins because of its fibre content and it fills kids up as well."

Five healthy sounding kids’ fruit drinks

 Product What the label says  Sugar per serve  Sugar per 100ml 
 Golden Circle Sunshine Punch (250mL) • Fruit drink with Vitamin C
• 25% Fruit Juice
• No added colours or preservatives
 7tsp (28g)  2.8tsp (12.2g)
 Golden Circle Pine Orange (250mL) • Fruit drink with Vitamin C
• 25% Fruit Juice
• No added colours or preservatives
 7tsp (27.9g)  2.8tsp (11.1g)
 Homebrand Orange and Mango • Contains 35% Fruit Juice
• No preservatives
 6.7tsp (26.8g)  2.7tsp (10.8g)
 Golden Circle Apple

• Fruit drink with vitamin C
• 25% Fruit Juice
• No added colours or preservatives

 6.7tsp (26.8g)  2.7tsp (10.8g)
 Prima Orange Mango (200mL) • No preservatives
• No added colours
• 25% Fruit Juice
 5.4tsp (21.6g)  2.7tsp (10.8g)

Note: Calculations based on 4g teaspoons.