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News / October 1, 2008

Higher levels of sugar and fat found in Irish breakfast cereals

by Guy Hiscott

Some breakfast cereals in Ireland contain higher levels of fat and sugar than the same product sold in other countries, a survey has revealed.

According to the results of international research published in Consumer Choice magazine, cereals in Ireland contained ‘unacceptably’ high levels of sugar.

The survey found Kellogg’s Coco Pops Coco Rocks contained almost 9% fat in Ireland, but only 1.3% fat when sold in Australia and New Zealand. Rice Krispies were found to contain 13% here, but only 10% sugar in most of the other 13 countries surveyed. Fat levels in this product were 1-1.3% in Ireland, but only 0.7% in the US, Australia and New Zealand.

However, despite the cereals being less healthy than in other countries, the study also found that Irish consumers are subjected to health claims in product advertising. For example, an Irish box of Kellogg’s Frosties claims the cereal has the goodness of grains, but in six other countries where the product is sold, no similar claim is made.

The Consumers’ Association of Ireland (CAI), which publishes Consumer Choice, says the results show manufacturers can produce healthier cereals with lower amounts of sugar, salt and fat.

Kellogg’s Ireland described the survey as alarmist. A spokesperson said it was based on an average portion size of 100g, when the average child would eat no more than 30-40g per serving.

Breakfast cereals contributed only 13-15% of the average child’s daily sugar requirement while providing a significant portion of the vitamins and nutrients they need.

When questioned about why the company made some products for the Irish market with higher sugar and salt levels, the spokesperson said brand formulation varied from continent to continent for a variety of reasons.

The research does not explain why the formulation of cereal products varies, but it is thought to be due to perceived differences in national tastes, suggesting the Irish may be seen as having a sweeter tooth.

The research, carried out by 31 consumer organisations around the world, says cartoons, bright colours, prize tokens and other marketing strategies are widely used to ‘entice’ children to eat high-sugar cereals.