‘Worrying’ sugar levels in cereals

bowl-of-cerealLittle effort appears to have been made to reduce sugar in children’s cereals nearly three years after a damning report, according to a report by consumer watchdog Which.

It said that although there had been some “positive progress” since it reported on the healthiness of breakfast cereals in 2006, sugar levels remained “shockingly high” and it was “particularly worrying” that so many high-sugar cereals were still being marketed to children.

A survey by the organisation of 100 cereal brands bought in January from the main supermarkets – excluding hot cereals and muesli – found a lower proportion of high-sugar cereals overall compared to 2006.

But only 8% qualified for a Food Standards Agency “green light” for low levels of sugar with 31 out the 100 bowls of cereal examined containing more than four teaspoons of sugar per recommended serving. Only one of the 28 bowls of cereal specifically marketed to children was found not to be high in sugar, the consumer group said.

Many brands thought of as healthy, such as Kellogg’s All Bran, Bran Flakes and Special K failed to impress the Which? researchers. The watchdog said starting the day with a recommended serving of Special K would be “almost the sugar equivalent” to waking up to a serving of Tesco Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Premium Ice Cream.

The report, Going Against the Grain, said there had been some “positive progress” since 2006, with the most progress made in reducing salt levels. Only eight out of the 100 bowls of cereal were classed as high in salt in 2009, compared with almost a fifth of the 275 sampled in 2006.

There were also some individual examples of good practice, the report said, such as Weetabix reformulating its cereals so they were a healthier choice and could be advertised to children.

Cereals were also still labelled inconsistently, the report said, with many manufacturers and some shops still not using the Government’s “traffic light” labelling scheme.

The system of listing percentage Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) can be helpful, the report said, but Which? research had shown the majority of people found the traffic light system the easiest to use to compare products.

The report further called for a ban on marketing cereals high in sugar, salt or fat to children. It was “disappointing”, it added, that cartoon characters were usually used to promote “less healthy” cereals to children.

Source: The Press Association

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