GET INVOLVED     |     ISSUES     |     NEWSROOM     |     RESOURCES     |     ABOUT US     |     CONTRIBUTE     |     SEARCH  




Kids' Cereals Saltier, Report Says

Julie Jargonin &  Aaron O. Patrick
Wall Street Journal
October 21, 2008

Cereal makers that reduce the amount of sugar in kids' cereals tend to ratchet up the salt content to improve flavor, says a report expected to be released Tuesday by Consumers International.

Cereal makers have been under pressure from consumer groups to reduce the sugar content of their kids' cereals, and Consumers International, in its report, "Cereal Offenses," says "manufacturers are likely to add salt to boost the flavor of the product, and may use salt to maintain customer appeal when sugar levels are reduced."

The London-based organization, an umbrella group representing 220 consumer groups globally, focused on products made by two of the world's largest makers of cereal for children, Nestlé SA of Vevey, Switzerland, and Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich. The group defined children's cereals as those that feature cartoon characters on the packaging, are endorsed by celebrities popular with kids and are advertised on kids' television programming.

A sampling of 100 grams of Kellogg's Frosties Reduced Sugar cereal sold in various countries contains, on average, 25% sugar and 1.5% salt -- more salt than is normally found in potato chips. Those averages are considered high by the U.K.'s Food Standards Agency, whose guidelines Consumers International used for its report. By comparison, 100 grams of Kellogg's Smacks cereal contains an average of 44% sugar and less than 1% salt, the report found.

Last year, after two advocacy groups -- the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood -- threatened to sue Kellogg for marketing sugary products to young children, Kellogg said it would reformulate certain products. For those products that it couldn't get to taste as good through reformulation, Kellogg said it would simply stop advertising to kids under the age of 12 as of 2009.

Susanne Norwitz, a Kellogg spokeswoman who reviewed the Consumers International Report, said she isn't aware of any instances of Kellogg adding salt to products in which it has lowered the sugar level. She said cereal formulas for the same product can vary from country to country based on consumer taste preferences and the availability of ingredients, "however, in our recent reformulation of select Kellogg's cereals, grams of sugar were reduced by a range of one to three grams, and sodium levels did not increase -- in fact, they were reduced."

Kellogg so far has reformulated its Froot Loops, Corn Pops, Rice Krispies, Cocoa Krispies and Apple Jacks cereals. The new formulas began hitting store shelves in June.

The report also takes aim at the overall sugar content of cereals, saying that in many cases, children's cereals contain more than twice the amount considered high by the U.K.'s Food Standards Agency. Nesquik cereal, for example, is made up of 36% sugar, on average -- a higher level than what is found in an equivalent amount of ice cream, Consumers International claims.

Nestlé didn't dispute the report's findings on sugar and salt content in its products, including Nesquik. But a spokeswoman said that even cereals with sugar can be nutritional, and that it is unfair to blame cereal for obesity when other factors are important, including exercise. "I have three children. They eat Cini Minis [a sugary breakfast cereal], but they don't eat them every meal," Nestlé spokeswoman Hilary Green said.

Kellogg's Ms. Norwitz said in an email that "all of the cereals identified by Consumers International are low-fat, nutrient-dense breakfast options proven to be beneficial as a part of a balanced diet. To put Consumers International's information in perspective, a serving size of yogurt (from a leading brand in the U.K.) contains more sugar than a serving size of Frosties cereal (15.9 grams of sugar in yogurt vs. 11 grams of sugar in Frosties)."

In the U.S., Europe and other parts of the world, many big food companies have agreed to voluntarily restrict some food advertising to children. In 2007, Nestlé said it would no longer advertise to children under 6 years old, and would only advertise healthy food to children ages 6 to 12.

But governments are going further, prompted by scientific studies linking childhood obesity to junk-food ads. Earlier this year, the U.K. banned junk-food ads from any television show aimed at children up to age 15.






Bookmark and Share



This article is copyrighted material, the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner



Website Designed & Maintained By: AfterFive by Design, Inc.
CCFC Logo And Fact Sheets By:

Copyright 2004 Commercial Free Childhood. All rights reserved