Independent consumer watchdog CHOICE attacked Australian snack and breakfast cereal makers for high salt levels after a review of 240 children-targeted products using data from The George Institute for Global Health.
Findings classified 20% high in salt and found almost 60% to contain medium levels of salt. One-fifth of the products were found to be low in salt.
Of the 36 breakfast cereals reviewed, CHOICE said 60% had medium salt levels and pinpointed Kellogg’s Crispix Honey Cereal and Coles Rice Puffs as products with high levels.
Two-thirds of the 64 savory snacks were found to be high in sodium with pre-packaged cheese dips and crackers the “worst offenders”.
Saltier than adult snacks…
“Alarmingly, 72 kids’ products had more sodium per 100 grams than Smith’s Original Chips. Some sweet snacks were found to contain considerable levels of salt with a lunch-box size pack of Tiny Teddies, for example, having almost as much sodium and a lunch-box pack of Smith’s Original Chips – 87mg for the Tiny Teddies and 91mg for the chips,” the report said.
Professor Bruce Neal from The George Institute for Global Health described the findings as “very concerning” given that recommended intake levels for children are much lower than for adults.
“This calls for much tougher action to control the food industry, so it is not profiting at the expense of our children’s health,” Neal said.
AFGC defends ‘false’ claims
Gary Dawson, CEO of the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) said the association rejects the claims made by CHOICE and said food manufacturers are taking the lead on reformulation through voluntary initiatives.
“Levels of salt and other nutrients and energy are clearly displayed through the industry led Daily Intake Guide (DIG) thumbnails on a wide variety of foods, including snack foods,” Dawson said.
“Salt levels in children’s snack foods are neither harmful nor hidden as falsely claimed by CHOICE.”
The CEO said manufacturers are committed to continued innovation and reformulation to reduce sodium and other ‘risk nutrients’ and supports the work of the Food and Health dialogue.
“Industry continues to invest in a number of initiatives that complement the Food and Health Dialogue, such as the Daily Intake Guide food labeling scheme, the industry commitment to responsible marketing of foods to children and the Health Australia Commitment, an industry led, multi-year strategy to assist Australians to improve their health and wellbeing.”
In October 2012, CHOICE exclusively looked at ready-to-eat (RTE) breakfast cereals on the Australian market and concluded that those targeting children were nutritionally disappointing – high in sugar and salt yet low in fiber.
Of the 195 RTE cereals reviewed, 73% of the 41 marketed at children were high in sugar, with more than half containing low levels of fiber.