WASH slams breakfast cereal makers for higher sugar content in developing markets

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Some of the breakfast cereals manufactured by Kellogg's that came under the WASH spotlight. Pic: ©iStock/Roel Smart/58shadows/Jen Grantham
Some of the breakfast cereals manufactured by Kellogg's that came under the WASH spotlight. Pic: ©iStock/Roel Smart/58shadows/Jen Grantham

Related tags Breakfast cereal

WASH, the World Action on Salt and Health, has hit out at discrepancies in the sugar and salt levels found in the same cereal brand sold in different countries.

The coalition of global health officials has also accused Kellogg and Nestlé for feeding cereal eaters around the world with excessive amounts of sugar and salt.

A big whitewash?

In Mexico, a 100 g serving of Kellogg’s Honey Smacks contains 25% more sugar (57 g/100 g) than the same bowl of cereal sold in Spain (43 g/100 g), found a recent survey conducted by WASH.

But, it’s all to do with consumer preference and one country’s penchant for sweeter things than another, contended Alison Last, Kellogg’s corporate communications manager, UK and Ireland. This will obviously lead to variations in recipes around the world, she said.

Sweet achievements

She told BakeryAndSnacks that Kellogg’s has been committed to reducing the sugar and sodium levels in its cereals for more than a decade and is right on track to achieve its global sugar and sodium reduction targets by 2020.

“The majority of our cereals now have 10 g (about 2.5 teaspoons) or less of sugar per 30 g serving, and by 2020, 90% of our Kellogg’s cereals will have 10 g of sugar or less per 30 g serving,” ​she said.

“In the UK alone, we will have removed more than 2,000 tons of sugar in our cereals by the end of next year. In addition, in 2015, we exceeded our global goal of a 30% overall sodium reduction in ready-to-eat cereals five years ahead of schedule.

“By 2020, at least 85% of our cereals will have 150m g or less of sodium per 30 g serving,” ​Last added.

A spoonful of sugar…

A sampling of 19 products manufactured by Kelloggs and Nestlé  sold in 29 countries were compared and results indicated that more than half (58%) contained high levels of sugar (over 22.5 g/100 g; almost six teaspoons of sugar) or 6.75 g in the standard 30 g serving.

Depending on the eater’s age, this may or may not be within Public Health England’s recommended daily intake of no more than 19 g for 4-6 year olds, 24 g for 7-10 year olds and 30g for adults.

The top 5 cereals with the highest sugar content



Sugar Content (per 100g)

Kellogg’s Honey Smacks


57 g

Kellogg’s Frosties

Australia, New Zealand

41.3 g

Kellogg’s Froot Loops

Brazil, Mexico

40 g

Kellogg’s Coco Pops

US, Hong Kong

38.7 g

Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Cornflakes

UK, Hungary, India, Kuwait, Spain, Ireland, UAE

35 g


The top 5 cereals with the lowest sugar content



Sugar Content (per 100g)

Kellogg’s Corn Flakes

Argentina, Brazil, Finland, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Kuwait, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Spain, Sweden, UAE, Italy, UK

8 g

Kellogg’s Rice Krispies

Belgium, Italy Kuwait, Qatar, Spain

8 g

Nestle Fitness

Denmark, Sweden, Norway

9.5 g

Kellogg’s All Bran Flakes

Australia, New Zealand

11.6 g

Kellogg’s Special K

Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden

11.9 g

Adding salt to wounds

WASH also compared the levels of salt found in cereals and found that 98 out of 291 (34%) contained more salt than the UK’s 2017 target for breakfast cereals of 1 g salt per 100 g.

Again, the amount of salt in the cereal varied by country. For example, Kellogg’s Cornflakes sold in India contained 46% more salt (1.93 g/100 g) than the same brand sold in Brazil (1.04 g/100g).

The top 5 cereals brands with the highest salt content



Salt Content (per 100 g)

Kellogg’s Corn Flakes


1.93 g

Kellogg’s Rice Krispies

Sri Lanka

1.92 g

Kellogg’s All Bran Flakes


1.81 g

Kellogg’s Special K


1.8 g

Kellogg’s Coco Pops


1.5 g


The top 5 cereals with the lowest salt content



Salt Content (per 100 g)

Kellogg’s Smacks

Belgium, Kuwait, Morocco, Norway, Qatar, Spain

0.08 g

Kellogg’s Frozen

Australia, New Zealand

0.36 g

Nestle Chocapic

Italy, Spain, Greece, Kuwait, Morocco, Belgium

0.38 g

Nestle Lion


0.38 g

Nestle Nesquik

UK, Belgium, Ireland, Finland, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Morocco

0.5 g

A call to standardize

The survey results have added impetus for critics to urge food manufacturers to increase efforts in reducing the salt and sugar content in their products.

Prof Graham MacGregor, chairman of WASH and professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Marty University of London has criticized Kellogg and Nestlé for the “’shocking’ levels of salt and sugar in their cereals”.

 He has challenged the two companies to “demonstrate that they can act in their customers’ interest to reduce sugar and salt levels to help save lives.”

Saadia Noorani, registered public health nutritionist at WASH, said that should not be impossible as the survey found popular cereals can be manufactured with less salt and sugar.

However, Last said while Kellogg’s will continue educating its consumers about nutrition and a balanced diet, it is committed to offering choice through a diverse range of foods.

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Food Lawyer

Posted by Cliff,

As to Regulator's comment, I think lack of regulation may be the issue. It's difficult for a food company selling less sugary product to be competitive against an unscrupulous competitor who sells product at the market's desired sweetness level, even if that sweetness level is unhealthy.

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Posted by Keith,

If consumer preferences are the justification for these unhealthy levels of sugar and salt, then why not allow customers to use their own salt shakers and sugar bowls to apply according to these tastes? But continuing to dump these excessive amounts is producing unhealthy food and contributing to the decline in public health for the sake of short term corporate profits.

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