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[WASHINGTON] US fast-food chain Burger King said on Tuesday it was cutting soft drinks from its children's meals amid mounting pressure to reduce the amount of sweet sodas that kids drink.
Following in the footsteps of rival McDonald's, Burger King said all its childrens' meals would come with either apple juice, fat-free milk or low-fat chocolate milk.
"We have removed fountain drinks from our kids' menu boards and they are no longer merchandised as part of kids' meals," the company said in a statement.
The Centre for Science in the Public Interest, one of a number of groups advocating for healthier diets for children, gave its support to the move by Burger King, which serves some 11 million people a day in 13,000 restaurants and outlets around the world.
"Soda and other sugary drinks promote diabetes, tooth decay, obesity, and even heart disease - and have no place on menus meant for little kids. We applaud Burger King for taking this responsible step forward, and call upon their franchisees - who operate independently of the company - to immediately follow suit."
But another healthy-food advocate, MomsRising, which had also pressed for the menu change, said more restaurants need to follow suit.
"While Burger King is now offering better default beverages, we need more restaurants to do the same because sugar-sweetened beverages uniquely promote heart disease and type 2 diabetes." McDonald's took a similar step in 2013 and another popular US fast-food chain, Wendy's, did so in January this year.
The World Health Organisation called last week for a reduction in consumption of sugar added to other foods, particularly beverages.
The WHO said adults and children should reduce the intake of added or free sugar - that which is not naturally occurring in the food - to less than 10 per cent of daily energy intake.
"A further reduction to below five per cent or roughly 25 grams (six teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits," it said.
According to the American Heart Association, Americans consume on average between 22 and 30 teaspoons of sugar a day.