McDonald’s Milkshakes Could Be Banned In The U.K. If Proposed Sugar Rules Take Effect

'These high-calorie milkshakes need to be reduced immediately below the 300kcal per serving.'

a mcdonald's shamrock shake, which may soon be banned in the uk
Todd van Hoosear / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0 Aaron Homer)

'These high-calorie milkshakes need to be reduced immediately below the 300kcal per serving.'

McDonald’s milkshakes could be banned in the United Kingdom if the country’s proposed sugar rules, intended to address a growing obesity epidemic, take effect.

As VT reports, the British government has already introduced a so-called “sugar tax,” which makes sugary drinks such as soda and, yes, milkshakes, more expensive, theoretically making them less attractive to consumers. But some in the country’s government don’t believe those rules go far enough, and have proposed even stricter sugar rules. Specifically, a proposal would ban drinks intended to be consumed in one sitting if they have more than 300 calories.

That means medium and large McDonald’s milkshakes, at least according to the sizes sold in the U.K., are right out. That’s because a medium one clocks in at 436 calories — and 18 teaspoons of sugar. Small milkshakes may still make the cut.

Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar, is just fine with that.

“These very high-calorie drinks if consumed on a daily basis, would result in children becoming obese and suffer from tooth decay – that is not acceptable. These high-calorie milkshakes need to be reduced immediately below the 300kcal per serving.”

By the way, the sizes (and calorie counts) of McDonald’s milkshakes sold in the U.K. are different than those of their American counterparts. And if you suspect the American versions are bigger and more calorie-laden, you are correct: a small McDonald’s vanilla milkshake, as sold in the U.S., clocks in at 490 calories, with 59 grams of sugar, according to this nutrition chart.

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Responses to the proposed rules ranged from snarky to downright indignant.

VT writer Emma Guinness, for example, mourns the loss of her favorite hangover treatment. Similarly, one Facebook user said it’s no big loss, considering that McDonald’s ice cream machines are notoriously finicky and rarely work anyway. Another user suggested banning cigarettes instead. Another suggested just ordering four small ones plus a tea and dumping out the tea to make room for the fatty, sugary, milkshakey goodness.

Here in the U.S., state and local governments have attempted to deal with the obesity epidemic by passing sugar taxes, with limited success. For example, as The Wall Street Journal reports, Philadelphia passed a soda tax, believing it was the right way to combat obesity. As it turns out, however, obesity is still a problem in Philadelphia, and the tax merely disproportionately affects poorer consumers, who often rely on cheap, calorie-dense food. Now some Philadelphia politicians are re-thinking the soda tax and considering overturning it.