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Almost without exception, breakfast cereals marketed to and for children, contain far too much sugar. As such, they can scarcely claim a place in a child-friendly breakfast. These are the findings of recent market research covering 143 products which packaging and marketing show are clearly targeted at children. Every second package had a sugar content of 30% or more.
Cookie Crisp, Smacks and Co.: the supermarket shelves are stacked high with brightly coloured packs of children’s breakfast cereals. The independent consumer watchdog “foodwatch” tested 143 products explicitly or implicitly targeted at children. Barely 6% had a sugar content under 10%. Around 85% of the products tested contained at least 20% sugar. Every second package had a sugar content of 30% or even higher. This means that many breakfast cereals contain more sugar than many cakes or chocolate biscuits. Instead of being a good basis for a healthy breakfast, they are in fact simply sugar that has been given a dusting of muesli.

Toys as a magnet for children
Breakfast cereals could be an important part of a balanced breakfast for children. But the food industry has seen fit to turn them into a cheap mix of low fibre flour and lots of sugar. So children start to develop a craving for sugar at the breakfast table. The major cornflakes producers attract children by including comic figures, competitions and toys in the package. At the same time they appeal to parents with promises of extra vitamins and whole grains. For the industry, cornflakes and other breakfast cereals packed full of cheap sugar are a lucrative business – for the health of our children, however, they can be fatal.

Sugar content should be limited
foodwatch is demanding that clear legal limits should be set on sugar content in children’s breakfast cereals. Only products containing under 10% sugar should be allowed to be marketed to children. foodwatch believes legal limits are necessary, because manufacturers won’t be stopped by anything less. On the contrary, Nestlé CEO Gerhard Berssenbrügge replied to the criticism of children’s breakfast cereals: “I can reassure you, our breakfast cereals are not sweets, they are a full-value start for the day.” An empty promise set against the foodwatch market survey which showed that none of Nestlé’s breakfast cereals for children has less than 30% sugar – it would be better to give your children chocolate biscuits and cake for breakfast.

Organic is not necessarily better!
And organic breakfast products aren’t much better: almost 60% of breakfast flakes contain over 20% sugar. The manufacturer dennree for example doesn’t even list the amount of sugar on the package. At the same time, organic producers are leading the way in showing that it’s possible to market balanced breakfast cereals for children with less than 10% sugar.

The big manufacturers in particular bear a heavy responsibility here. As the foodwatch test shows most of the supermarkets’ own brands are heavily criticised – Aldi, Lidl and Co. with their ranges of flakes and other cereals often imitate the leading manufacturers. The big brands and their products shape the market and the smaller manufacturers and the brands copy them avidly.

Source & graphics: foodwatch.