Cereals for kids still high in sugar, consumer report

By Lindsey Partos

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sugar, Breakfast cereal, Uk

Driven by consumer demand, formulators are cutting the sugar and salt content from a host of products for kids, but a recent cross-nation report that honed in on breakfast cereals for children suggests more work is required, particularly in the US.

Eleven popular cereal brands carry as much sugar as a glazed doughnut, Consumer Reports said this week.

Their findings come at a time when governments, regulatory advisors and consumer watchdogs are all drawing attention to the role HFSS foods (high in fat, sugar and salt) may play in the rise of childhood obesity.

Indeed, according to the UK's Department of Health, statistics from its 2005 Health Survey for England revealed 18 per cent of children aged between two and five in England were classified obese in 2005 (body mass index over 30) - a double-digit rise of 11 per cent and 12 per cent for boys and girls respectively in 1995.

And while industry is, by many accounts, striving to curb the levels of fat, sugar and salt in food applications, the 32-nation study found that Kellogg's Honey Smacks, for example, sold in Germany, Slovenia, and Switzerland had about 40 per cent sugar.

Further, the same product marketed in the US contained 55 per cent sugar, lambasts the report.

The report adds that in the mid-1980s, several products removed the word "sugar"​ from their name: Sugar Smacks, for example, became Honey Smacks, and Super Sugar Crisp became Super Golden Crisp.

"But the levels of sugar in the cereals have remained about the same,"​ claims the study.

On 'reduced sugar' claims, the report writes that while Kellogg's 'Frosted Flakes Reduced Sugar' has 30 per cent less sugar than the regular recipe, it actually contains 10 more calories per serving than either the regular 'Frosted Flakes' or the fibre-boosted 'Frosted Flakes Gold'.

Instigated by global consumer watchdog Consumers International, the report found that the most healthful brands are: Cheerios with three grammes of fibre per serving and one gramme of sugar made by US firm General Mills and Life, made by Pepsico's Quaker Oats unit.

In a statement accompanying the report, Consumers International repeated its call on the UN's World Health Organisation "to develop international guidelines that would restrict advertising and marketing of foods high in sugar, fat, or sodium to children."

WHO received a mandate in 2007 to develop its own set of recommendations on marketing to children. It is expected to begin its consultation process over the next 12 months.

Meanwhile, groundbreaking rules in the UK last year saw the introduction of a ban on advertisements of HFSS foods in or around programmes made for children.

A recent report from the UK's Advertising Association, a confederation of 32 trade associations for industries involved in the UK advertising sector, revealed a shift in the nature of food advertising on television in the last three years away from HFSS foods, and manufacturers have been reformulating products to give them a healthier profile.

According to the group, the amount of food and drink ads seen by children under 16 across all content and commercial TV channels was seen to have declined by almost 22 per cent from 2003 to 2006, whilst children under 10 watched almost 26 per cent less in 2006.

But, only this month, UK consumer watchdog Which? claimed that a recent survey showed that none the programmes with the five highest child audiences are covered by the restrictions under existing rules.

The ad restrictions may look good on paper but the reality is that the programmes most popular with children are slipping through the net, said Clare Corbett, Which? food campaigner.

The Advertising Association firmly dismissed the Which? claims, with Baroness Peta Buscombe, the association’s chief executive, deeming the Which? report as sensationalist, unconstructive and missing the point.

Related topics: Ingredients

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