Parents ‘duped’ by sugar-coated breakfast cereals

Food companies are “profiteering” by filling popular breakfast cereals with more than 35 per cent sugar and “habituating” young children to a lifetime of bad habits, warns one of the nation’s leading nutritionists.

To sell these sweet products, companies hide behind “the halo” of health claims and clever marketing, leaving parents in the dark as to the health risks, says University of New South Wales visiting fellow Dr Rosemary Stanton, a member of the order of Australia.

“Most people find it very hard to give up the habits they develop as children, particularly with food,” she says.

Click here for all of today’s top stories
‘Insidious’ fast food targets next generation
• Kids shorter, fatter because of junk food diets
• Aussie sport fans ‘bombarded’ by booze ads
Government to you: start lifting your weight!

The federal government has introduced a new health star system, which rates the overall nutritional value of food from one to five based on salt, sugar and saturated fat content.

Uncle Tobys, Sanitarium, Nestle and Lion having accepted the star system, along with the private labels of Coles and Woolworths, but industry leader Kellogg’s has delayed its rollout, angering health and consumer groups.


Parents would not allow their kids to add as much sugar as many cereals already contain. Photo: Shutterstock

“It’s just not good enough that a major player like Kellogg’s, that sells popular brands Just Right, Special K, Coco Pops and Nutri-Grain, are withholding basic health information,” says CHOICE spokesman Tom Godfrey.

“Australians shouldn’t have to take a calculator to the supermarket to figure out if their food is healthy.”

Including the stars would “reveal the true nature of the product”, says a spokesperson for the Obesity Policy Coalition, which is also campaigning for the rating system.

“Something like Coco Pops is very high in sugar and I think the stars would help,” says Obesity Policy Coalition senior policy analyst Jane Martin.

Sugar-laden cereals clash with new guidelines from the United Nations’ health agency released early in March, which halved the recommended daily dose of the sweet stuff.

Ideally, sugar should make up no more than five per cent (or six teaspoons) of your daily food intake, the World Health Organization (WHO) now says.

“Many of our cereals would, in just in one bowl, exceed the daily allowance,” says qualified nutritionist Michele Chevalley Hedge, who is regularly asked by the WHO to discuss the harmful effects of sugar.

Despite the health risks of sugar – which include obesity, tooth decay and diabetes – many parents may be unaware of just how much of the sweetener is in cereal because of the “nutritional halo” of added vitamins, words like ‘wholegrains’, and the use of athletes as a marketing gimmick, says Dr Rosemary Stanton.

“I think parents, they just don’t think about the sugar content,” she says.

“If a child added nearly half of the bowl of sugar at the breakfast table, parents would object.”

The New Daily approached Kellogg’s for comment, but it did not respond.

Best and worst popular cereals

weet-bix5 health stars (3.3% sugar)
all-bran5 health stars (13.6% sugar)
Special-K4 health stars (14.5% sugar)
cheerios4 health stars (19.9% sugar)
sultana-bran4 health stars (22.7% sugar)
Just-Right4 health stars (28.7% sugar)
rice-bubbles3 health stars (10.6% sugar)
Froot-Loops2 health stars (38% sugar)
coco-pops2 health stars (36.5% sugar)
nutri-grain2 health stars (32% sugar)
crunchy-nut2 health stars (28.9% sugar)

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.