Dairy Queen nixes sugary drinks on kids’ menu

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NEW YORK — Finish that soda, junior.

Dairy Queen is removing sugary drinks from its children’s menu, bowing to a request from health advocates.

The ice-cream and fast-food chain will remove soft drinks, including the neon colored Arctic Rush frozen beverage, from its kids’ menu and replace them with healthier options such as bottled water and milk.

The move was announced by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which said McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s have all made similar moves.

“Dairy Queen deserves credit for being responsive to the concerns of parents, who increasingly want to be able to order off the kids’ menu without having to say ‘no’ to soda,” said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo Wootan.

DQ, as the company known, is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Nearly all of its 6,400 locations are operated as franchises. But the company’s franchise committee unanimously agreed to the menu change, which will take effect in September.

It’s part of a shift in the food industry as consumers demand better options at fast-food chains and the grocery store.

Restaurant chains like Chipotle and Panera Bread have been the most aggressive, eliminating genetically-modified produce and artificial additives.

Big food companies have also been moving that direction. Kraft Foods, for example, removed artificial colors from its macaroni and cheese, famous for its bright orange color.

However, public health advocates say the restaurant industry needs to do more. CSPI says 97% of the food on children’s menus at the top restaurant chains are unhealthy.

“One by one, restaurants are listening to parents and public health experts and starting to do their part to help keep kids healthy, but we aren’t done yet,” said Monifa Bandele, a director with the group MomsRising.org.

Specifically, the group called on Applebee’s and Chili’s to show the same kind of “corporate responsibility” as DQ.