INTERNATIONAL -- Parents' Voice is targeting fast food outlets that offer soft drinks as part of children's meal deals.
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The group says that parents often expect water to be the default option when they see it pictured next to a kid's meal deal, but are left in a sticky situation when their child is offered a soft drink instead.
Adelaide mother of two, Kristy Schirmer, is involved in the campaign and says having water served automatically would relieve a lot of stress for many parents who take their children to fast food restaurants.
"It adds a lot of pressure on parents especially when there is a long line," she said.
"It should just be the default option ... it would make life a lot easier.
"When we see a picture of water with a meal we expect to get something healthy and that's what a majority of us parents would like to have."
Fast food outlets urged to take 'responsible role'
The advocacy group is targeting McDonald's, Hungry Jack's, Red Rooster, Pizza Hut, Oporto, KFC and Chicken Treat, companies it claims are breaching a healthy advertising code.
But the Australian Food and Grocery Council says that the proposed change would be a "stretch" and that the current options available to families are sufficient.
The council's acting chief executive Dr Geoffrey Annison says while water would be a more popular choice, he rejected the idea that there was a default drink served with meals. "These outlets are catering to a broad community so they need to maintain a choice.
"We need to promote the dietary guidelines which do support water as the first drink of choice but of course other drinks do have a role including soft drinks as a treat."
The Subway restaurant chain has signed on to the plan and now only provides soft drinks with children's meals on request.
Associate Professor Matthew Hopcraft from Melbourne University is part of the campaign and says sugary drinks are having a deep impact on children's health, through obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.
"We know that these companies need to be taking more of a responsible role in offering a healthy alternative and offering water and not offering a soft drink to a five- or six-year-old kid as part of their so-called happy meal for example," he said.
"There is a strong link between sugar consumption and poor health outcomes.
"One in two kids by the age of six have tooth decay in their baby teeth so it's very extreme and then there's obesity and there's type 2 diabetes."
SOURCE Elias Clure, ABC Online
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