Cereal comes under fire for sugar content

Australian cereal manufacturers are being criticised for promoting health claims on their packaging despite being a third sugar.

The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) said these manufacturers are “potentially misleading consumers” by promoting health claims on their packaging.

The OPC analysed the labels of 20 popular breakfast cereals and found that the majority of products carried healthy sounding claims such as a ‘source of fibre’, ’69 percent wholegrain’ and ‘no artificial flavours’ – though for some, sugar made up more than 35 percent of the ingredients.

Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the OPC, believes consumers deserve the right to a clearer picture about what they are eating and the Coalition is urging all cereal manufacturers to adopt Australia’s voluntary Health Star Rating labelling system,

Martin says: “For example, many breakfast cereals contain high levels of sugar, but manufacturers use all sorts of creative phrases on their labels to give consumers the impression they’re a nutritious choice for breakfast. It’s as though they are prepared to tell consumers only half the story. 

“Many parents would be horrified to learn that for every three mouthfuls of Nutri-Grain, one is just sugar, while a small bowl contains twice as much sodium as a small packet of chips.

“The Health Star Rating System was introduced more than a year ago to help consumers compare the overall nutritional quality of products at a glance. The system helps consumers better understand a product’s overall health rating so they can make informed choices, but our research has revealed very few cereals, as yet, carry the star label,” Martin says.

“Nutrition panels can also provide helpful information if people know what the information means. When it comes to sugar, for example, knowing foods containing over 15 grams of sugar per 100 grams are considered ‘high’ in sugar helps people decide whether that’s a product they want to eat.  Similarly for salt, a product with over 400mg of sodium per 100 grams is considered high in salt.

Sanitarium, Uncle Tobys. Coles and Woolworths have already incorporated the voluntary Star Rating System on their packaging

Cereal offenders – OPC survey results

Average sugar content of all 20 cereals analysed was 19.8g per 100g – that’s almost 20 per cent sugar. This equates to about 5 teaspoons of sugar.

Cereals with front-of-pack health claims that also contain high levels of sugar include Kellogg’s Coco Pops (36.5g per 100g) , Kellogg’s Nutri Grain, Kellogg’s Just Right (28.7g) and Uncle Toby’s Fruity Bites Wild Berry (24.8g). 

The cereals with the most sugar were Kellogg’s Frosties (41.3g per 100g), Kellogg’s Froot Loops (38g) and Kellogg’s Coco Pops (36.5g) – all of which are heavily promoted to children.

Top 5 cereal brands sold in supermarkets by value (according to Retail World, December 2014) are: Weetbix, Nutri-Grain, Uncle Toby’s Plus, Coco Pops, and Special K.


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