Sorry Wendy’s. FoodFacts.com is really not trying to minimize your efforts to offer healthier options to consumers. But it’s true … a kids meal without a soda is still a kids meal. It’s still full of calories, fat and sodium, not to mention ingredients your average child can’t pronounce and doesn’t need. Plus, you really didn’t remove it, you just stopped promoting it.
Wendy’s is the latest fast-food chain to remove the soda option from kids’ meal menus.
That means when parents drive through a pick-up window, they won’t see soda as an option on the menu board, but if they decide to order one, they won’t be turned down.
The fast-food chain is the most recent to cave to pressure from children’s health advocacy groups. McDonald’s made a similar commitment to drop soda from Happy Meals in 2013, after partnering with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a group aimed at fighting childhood obesity.
The Center for Science in Public Interest released a statement Thursday saying that Wendy’s was removing the soda option from menu boards and kids’ meals.
The statement said they hoped Wendy’s would also offer healthier choices including, “whole grain rolls, offering more fruit and vegetable options, reducing sodium across the menu, and dropping Frostys from the children’s menu.”
Unlike some fast-food chains, Wendy’s default drink choice was never soda, Bob Bertini, a spokesman for Wendy’s said in an e-mail to USA TODAY Network.
“When ordering a kids’ meal, the customer is asked what beverage they prefer,” Bertini wrote. “The change is the kids’ meal beverage options which are shown on our menu boards.”
Bertini says the fast-food company began displaying images of “healthful beverage options,” including 1% white or chocolate milk, bottled water and 100% juice.
He says the kids’ meal soft drink option no longer appears on the chain’s menu boards, inside the restaurants, at the pick-up windows or on the mobile app in the U.S. and Canada.
While soda is no longer the default drink, it still remains one of the most profitable items for fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Wendy’s, according to Jesse Bragg, media director for Corporate Accountability International.
Bragg says nothing will be solved until the marketing practices that draw kids to fast food is curbed.
“It’s incredibly difficult to enforce on a local level in the fast food industry,” Bragg said.
For children’s health advocates the battle is far from over. In the soda wars, other restaurants such as Subway, Arby’s and Chipotle do not offer soda on the kids’ menu.
But, one of the giants is still left standing — Burger King.
“Two down, one to go,” says Howell Wechsler, chief executive officer of Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
An email statement from Burger King said the company is, “currently in the process of analyzing the removal of fountain drinks from our kids’ menu boards.”
So to clarify this “change” even more — you CAN still get a soda with a kids meal at Wendy’s. The soda is simply not being promoted on the menu boards. Nearest we can tell, that’s not much of a change. It’s not like consumers are actually being told in the store that they can no longer order a soda with the kids meal. THAT would be a change. Taking the image of the soda out of the pretty picture of the kids meal and leaving the word soda out of the kids meal description on the menu board … not so much.