More than 9 out of 10 (93 per cent) parents agree that water should be the default option in kids' meals, according to the latest Parents Voice survey of Australian mums and dads.
Alice Pryor, Campaigns Manager for Parents' Voice, says support for the simple message continues to grow. "Parents are fed up," she said. "Fast food companies target children with advertisements for kids' meals that don't reflect the unhealthy in-store reality."
The advocacy group is increasing the pressure on fast food companies with a new #waterwiththat website, digital advertisement and petition.
Ms Pryor called on all signatories to the Quick Service Restaurant Initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children (QSRI) to put water with their kids' meals. "Fast food companies had pledged not to market unhealthy food and drinks to children, but still serve sugary drinks as standard," she said.
"There's no reason why they can't make the change," she added. "Last year, Subway Australia showed their support for healthier environments by removing sugary drink entirely from their kids' meals."
Almost half (47 per cent) of Australian children consume at least one sugary drink every day, this campaign highlights an opportunity for fast food to play a role in being part of the solution. Along with overweight and obesity concerns, tooth decay is a growing worry for Australian children and teenagers.
Clinical Associate Professor Matthew Hopcraft said: "By the age of 12, 40 per cent Australian children will have decay in their adult teeth, with added sugar being a major factor in the development of caries. We need to address the burden that sugary drink consumption is placing on our children."
Parent of two, Nicole French, would like to see a change to the constant pushing of sugary drinks on children: "Corporations and their marketing are undermining the messages of healthy eating and moderation that I am teaching my children. They could easily place water first to save the tug of war between parents and children at the counter. Water should be the first choice for kids."
Ms Pryor added: "Alarmingly, children aged 9–13 years consume 7kg of sugar from sugary drinks every year. Parents' Voice is urging Australian fast food companies to make a simple change. Serve water."
Parents' Voice is an online network of parents who are interested in improving the food and physical activity environments of Australian children. Formerly known as The Parents' Jury, Parents' Voice was formed in 2004 and represents thousands of Australian parents. Parents' Voice is supported by Diabetes Victoria, VicHealth and YMCA.
Sugary drinks are defined as all sugary drinks that provide unnecessary kilojoules and have no other nutritional value, such as soft drinks, energy drinks, and fruit drinks that contain added sugar.
Signatories to the QSRI are: Chicken Treat, Hungry Jacks, KFC, McDonald's Australia, Oporto, Pizza Hut and Red Rooster
Petition is host on the Parents' Voice website: https://parentsvoice.org.au/campaigns/waterwiththat
Photo by Nine Köpfer on Unsplash