Consumer group slams breakfast cereal formulations

By Lindsey Partos

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

The levels of salt and sugar in breakfast cereal formulations targeted at children are slammed in Australia after consumer group finds key 'cereal' offenders are "heavy on marketing spin and light on good nutrition".

Food pressure group The Parents Jury teamed up with nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton to compare the on-pack claims on 14 children’s cereals with their actual ingredients and information on the Nutrition Information Panels.

Headlining the advocacy group's worst offenders due to the 'greatest discord between their nutritional value and their promotional claims' is Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain cereal with sugar and salt content standing respectively at 32g and 600mg per 100g.

“Not even the added vitamins and minerals can make up for that fact that this product is almost one-third sugar,"​ commented Dr Rosemary Stanton on Monday.

The consumer group claims that Kellogg's Nutri-Grain product was unable to stand up to its marketing tagline of "Iron Man Food' or that it 'helps fuel growing boys' due to its "very low fibre content (2.7 per cent) and high levels of sugar and sodium"​.

This latest report is set to fuel the ongoing debate on the nutritional content of foods targeted at children and once again forces into focus ingredients used in formulations specifically targeted at the younger population. In the UK, the Food Standards Agency is driving efforts with the food industry to slash the salt content from food products in a bid to reduce the salt intake of the population to 6g per person per day by 2010.

Major industry player Nestle, for example, claims it has reduced levels of the additive in cereals by 30 per cent so far with a quarter of the group's brands containing no added salt. Nestle is a member of the UK's Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers, a consortium that in 2004 announced a commitment to reduce the salt content of breakfast cereals by a further 10 per cent by the end of 2005, 'subject to consumer preference'. ACFM claims the final reduction for this period was 15 per cent and brought the total reduction for branded breakfast cereal to 33 per cent since 1998.

The 'cereal offenders'

The 14 cereals selected by The Parents Jury were assessed for their fibre, fat, sugar and sodium content using criteria structured by consumer group Choice that itself drew figures from nutritional guidelines by the UK's FSA and Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

Under their traffic-light system, per 100g the green light goes to total fat of less than 3g, saturated fat less than 1.5g, sugars lower than 5g, and sodium content under 120mg.

Nestle's Milo cereal was criticised over its sugar content with the report underling levels of 29.5g per 100g, nearly six times more than the Choice guidelines.

Despite having more fibre than its previous formula, Dr Stanton says that with its 30 per cent sugar content Milo cereal cannot claim any “superior moral ground for good nutrition”, said Dr. Stanton.

Lowan Cocoa Bombs was also identified as a 'cereal offender' for using "a lesser-known marketing tactic". A gluten free cereal that uses rice-flour, the product can also be found in the health aisle, but with 29.8g per 100g of sugar and 3 per cent fibre, Dr Stanton stressed the Cocoa Bombs were "very low in fibre and high in sugar."

Competing cereal has 10 times less sugar than 'cereal offenders'

With 11 per cent fibre, 2.9g of sugar per 100g - ten times less than the 'cereal offenders', and 110mg of salt, 'Weet-Bix kids' from Australian and New Zealand firm Sanitarium won the consumer group's 'badge of honour'.

"It lives up to all of its on-pack claims and proves that it is possible to create a fun and popular healthy children's cereal," ​said Rosemary Stanton.

Weet-Bix Kids is a salt-reduced version of regular Weet Bix, with on-pack claims that the product is 'giving your kids the best start to the day' and provides 'a third of your child's daily calcium and iron needs.'

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