Shops are selling meal deals with quadruple the recommended daily amount of sugar - the same amount as 79 chocolate fingers, according to shock new research.
Figures show some supermarkets and retailers are flogging lunchtime snacks that contain up to 30 teaspoons of sugar.
The new survey reveals certain food and drink combinations contain a staggering 30 teaspoons of sugar, which is more than four times an adult’s daily maximum intake of ‘free’ sugars (30g/7 tsp) in just a single lunch.
From the meal deals surveyed, the combination containing the highest amount of sugar is from WHSmith which includes a sandwich plus the option of a Mountain Dew Citrus Blast 500ml drink and a bag of Skittles Crazy Sours which contains an huge 30 teaspoons of sugar - equivalent to the amount of sugar in 79 chocolate fingers.
If this meal deal was eaten every day over a working week, this would equate to a whopping 150 teaspoons of sugar (595g) - more than a 1lb bag of sugar.
WHSmith also does now offer a healthy snack options with fresh fruit as part of their meal deals.
Other examples of high sugar meals include Tesco Smokehouse Pulled Chicken with Mesquite Style Sauce with a Monster Energy 500ml drink and Mars Duo - with 30 teaspoons of sugar, which is that the same amount of sugar found in approximately 16 double chocolate mini muffins.
Morrisons’ Sweet Chilli Chicken Wrap with Relentless Passion Punch Energy 500ml drink and Millionaire Shortbread is not far behind, with 28 teaspoons of sugar and 1,048 kcal.
Co-op Meal Pot Blackbean Pulled Beef & Noodle with Rockstar Blueberry Pomegranate Acai energy 500ml drink and Rocky Road Bar has 28 teaspoons of sugar and 855 kcal.
Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Action on Sugar, said: “Eating too much sugar is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.
“It may seem like it’s a good deal for our wallets, but some meal deal choices are a bad deal for our health.
“Furthermore, both manufacturers and retailers have a responsibility to their customer’s health and should go well beyond reducing the sugar in their products by 20 per cent, as Public Health England is calling for.”
The lowest amount of sugar available in a meal deal was offered by Sainsbury’s which included Sainsbury’s on the Go Avocado, Tomato & Basil on Malted Bread, Ribena Strawberry 500ml, and a Sainsbury’s On the Go Carrot Batons 80g, with 4.1g of sugar - or one teaspoon.
Boots lowest was a roast chicken and stuffing, Boots Shapers Watervit Skin Sparkler still mixed berry 500ml and a Shapers Raspberry Jelly 170g, with only had 5.6g, also one teaspoon, of sugar.
M&S lowest sugar meal deal included a Feta Cheese & Slow Roasted Tomato Pasta, Diet Sparkling Pink Cranberry Lemonade 500ml and Marks & Spencer Count on us Sea Salt & Malt Vinegar Baked Potato Crisps 25g with 6.7g of suagr, which is around one teaspoon.
The highest M&S meal is 20 teaspoons of sugar, as is Sainsbury’s, and Boots is 24, which is 94g.
Figures show that 72 per cent of meal deal drinks sold at Morrisons are high (red) in sugar per drink compared to 38 per cent at M&S which offers the lowest percentage of high sugar drinks.
Some drinks alone contain up to 70g of sugar and are frequently offered in 500ml portions, which equates to two servings, despite being sold as part of a lunch meal.
Registered Nutritionist Kawther Hashem, researcher at Action on Sugar, said: “These excessively high sugar combos can have a detrimental effect on people’s health, particularly if eaten daily.
“It is staggering that by just making simple swaps at lunchtime, you can reduce your sugar intake by a massive 29 teaspoons of sugar.
“Often it is the drinks included in the meal deals which are extremely high in sugar.
The majority of the retailers have more high sugar drinks as part of meal deal promotions than lower sugar drinks. This is not giving consumers enough healthier choices. We strongly urge retailers to replace these with lower or no sugar options.”
Although low sugar meal deal options are available with some combinations containing less than one teaspoon of sugar, the majority of retailers are not promoting healthy choices to consumers, researchers say.
Red light spells danger
Action on Sugar based at Queen Mary University of London is calling on supermarkets and retailers to exclude all ‘high’ sugary drinks and confectionery, such as those that would have a ‘red’ traffic light label, from being sold as part of their popular meal deals.
Registered Nutritionist Jenny Rosborough and Campaign Manager at Action on Sugar adds, “It is time the government ensure that price promotions including meal deals, are geared towards healthier options.
“This highlights just how much sugar is included in special offer meal deals, which has been proven to make people buy more.
“The government has been running scared of the food industry for far too long, having eliminated price promotions from last year’s Childhood Obesity Planx.
“Meanwhile, last week the Scottish government announced plans to restrict the promotion of food and drink high in fat, sugar and salt. If our government care about our nation’s health, they need to tackle this head on.”
Shoppers are advised to pick fruit or vegetables for their snack option with water or sugar-free drinks, fruit juice or a smoothie to reduce their sugar intake.