January 16, 2015 11:39 am
Updated: March 9, 2015 9:09 am

Wendy’s drops soda from kids’ menu in Canada, U.S.

This March 17, 2014 photo shows a Wendy's single hamburger with cheese combo meal at a Wendy's restaurant in Pittsburgh.

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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TORONTO – With the pressure of catering to health-conscious parents, fast food chains are trying to cut the calories, fat and sugar. This week, Wendy’s said it would drop soda from its kids menus in the U.S., a measure that’s already been in place in Canada for several years.

The fast food chain is following in the footsteps of its peers, such as McDonald’s, Subway, Arby’s and Chipotle, which have phased out sugary pop from their offerings to kids. The move comes after pressure from health advocacy groups that circulated petitions.

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Now, when parents head to the drive-thru or head inside the restaurant, soda won’t be listed as an option on the menu for kids’ combos. Reports suggest they won’t be refused if they still order pop for their kids, though.

READ MORE: How fast food tried to get svelte in 2014

“For quite some time, we have been displaying imagery of healthful beverage options, including milk, juice and water, whenever we feature our Kids’ Meal offerings on our menu boards, point-of-purchase materials and online properties,” Wendy’s spokesman Bob Bertini told Global News in an email.

“We took the additional step of removing carbonated soft drinks from the Kids’ Meal listing on our menu boards, inside our restaurants, and at our pick-up windows,” he explained.

Now drink options include one per cent white or chocolate milk, bottled water and juice.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest applauded the move.

READ MORE: McDonald’s confronts its junk food image as sales flag

“While parents bear most of the responsibility for feeding their children well, restaurant chains also need to do their part,” the CSPI said in a statement.

“Wendy’s is taking a responsible step forward that will improve children’s health and make it easier for parents to make healthy choices for their children,” the statement read.

It’s still calling on Wendy’s to offer more fruit and vegetables on its menu, serve whole grain rolls, ditch the Frosty option for kids, and cut back on sodium across the board.

The CSPI, along with other consumer affairs organizations, circulated petitions calling on various fast food chains to give up soda on kids’ menus. By 2013, McDonald’s promised to remove pop as an option on the iconic Happy Meal – that decision is now in effect, reports say.

READ MORE: Chemical in Subway bread also in Canada, but will be removed, company says

In its concessions to the consumer groups, the Golden Arches vowed to promote only water, milk and juice to accompany the Happy Meal and use the fun packaging to “generate excitement” about healthy eating.

The Wendy’s petition only garnered about 7,000 signatures.

The next frontier for the health advocacy groups? Burger King. The CSPI says it’s the only one of the big three hamburger joints to keep soda on its kids’ menus.

READ MORE: What Canadians want to know about what’s in fast food

In emailed statement from Burger King to USA Today, the company said it’s “currently in the process of analyzing the removal of fountain drinks from our kids’ menu boards.”

The CSPI is also zeroing in on Applebee’s and IHOP in the U.S.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

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