Leading consumer group slams cereal makers

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 29th April 2009

A survey of breakfast cereals by Choice has found only two of those aimed at children are really suitable for everyday eating, the second time this month that the nutritional content of kids breakfast cereals has been questioned.

The consumer group reported that many of the products aimed at kids were among the worst examples of excessive sugar and sodium levels.

While Sanitarium’s Weet-Bix Kids was one of the healthiest examples because of its 11% of dietary fibre, the same company’s Skippy Corn Flakes managed to cram 50% of a small child’s daily maximum for sodium into just one 30-gram serve, according to the study. Old favourite Kellogg’s Coco Pops remains too low in dietary fibre (1.2%) and too high in sugar (37%) to recommend for children, while Nutri-Grain was among the worst nutritionally with 5.7% fibre and far too much sugar and sodium for everyday eating, Choice said.

“More than half of the 154 cereals Choice looked at contained far too much sugar,” spokesman Christopher Zinn advised. “There’s no reason why cereals should contain added sodium but many contain far too much, including those aimed at kids.”

Only one of the top-ten selling cereals, Sanitarium Weet-Bix, made it into the ten healthiest choices list – which was contingent on high dietary fibre and low saturated fat, sugar and sodium.

Since its last survey two years ago Choice discovered that there had been some nutritional changes but not all were for the better. Nestlé decreased the amount of sugar and sodium in its Milo cereal but upped the levels of sodium in Cheerios and Nesquick. Kellogg’s cut sugar and sodium in Crunchy Nut Clusters but upped the sodium in its kids-marketed Frosties, the group reported.

Choice also tested how realistic the manufacturer’s recommended serving sizes on cereal boxes are by comparing this to a small in-house survey of the top-ten selling cereals.

On average, men poured 49% more than the recommended serving size on the packet and women averaged 26% more, implying a need for more education regarding appropriate serving sizes.

Choice claimed the results indicated percent Daily Intake (%DI) information now featured on the front of boxes was not in line with people’s actual eating habits and dietary needs and again called for the introduction of traffic light labelling.

The issue of labelling remains contentious, with the Daily Intake Guide vs traffic light debate to continue while a review of labelling is carried out as part of the COAG (Council Of Australian Governments) initiatives.