11:07 15 September 2009
As the government prepare to launch a new campaign warning of the health risks of too much salt, cereal manufacturers are worried that their products will be targeted.
The Food Standards Agency's (FSA) new advertising campaign is part of a fresh drive to reduce salt consumption, highlighting that three quarters of our regular salt intake comes in the form of cereals, tomato ketchup and readymade soup.
As most of us are aware, too much salt can lead to high blood pressure which has been linked to strokes and heart attacks. In fact, according to the FSA, for every gram of salt intake that is reduced from the average daily intake across the UK, as many as 7,000 deaths could be prevented.
However, what is not such common knowledge is just how much some cereals can significantly increase our salt intake without us even realising.
While breakfast cereal is a good way to start the day, some varieties could be doing more harm than good. A recent study by consumer watchdog Which? named and shamed some of the worst offenders for having high salt content.
The shocking results showed that despite many brands having improved their salt levels since the damning Which? report in 2006, some are still too high. In 2006, one fifth of the 275 cereals tested were found to have high levels of salt. In 2009, this has reduced significantly with only eight brands of the 100 analysed found to be too high in salt. One particular offender was Tesco Special Flakes, which were found to contain as much salt as 100g of Walkers ready salted crisps.
As well as the hidden salt in cereals, many products are also high in sugar and fat. The FSA use a traffic light system to easily identify the problem areas against recommended daily intakes of fat, saturates, sugar and salt. Green means the food is low in that section, amber means that this option is okay some of the time, while red means that the product is know is high in something you should be trying to cut down on and is fine as an occasional treat.
However, the labelling system is only recommended, which has led to inconsistency as some shops have adopted it but others haven't.
Out of 100 cereals, only eight of the products qualified for the FSA healthy "green light" for low levels of sugar, with 31 containing more than four teaspoons of sugar to a recommended serving. Only one of the 28 cereals specifically marketed at children, Kellogg's Rice Krispies, was found not to be high in sugar, but it was still high in salt.
Many brands perceived to be healthy, including Kellogg's All Bran, Bran Flakes and Special K, also had high levels of sugar. Morrisons Choco Crackles cereal tops the sweet mountain with more sugar to a serving than a Cadbury Flake, followed closely by Kellogg's Coco Pops Moons and Stars, Frosties and Ricicles, which were more than a third (37%) pure sugar, according to the Which? report.
Kellog's were also the only brand (except for Mornflake Traditional Crunchy) to have a "red light" warning for their high levels of saturates. Kellog's Crunchy Nut Bites and Crunchy Oatbakes were the worst with 7g of saturated fat per 100g, closely followed by Crunchy Nut Clusters Milk Chocolate Curls.
There were few cereals that received mostly green lights, although there has been a significant improvement since the last report in 2006, and only one cereal, Nestle Shredded Wheat, received all green lights.
Top 5 worst offenders for salt per 100g
Tesco Special Flakes 2g
Kelloggs Corn Flakes 1.8g
Morrisons Honey Nut Corn Flakes 1.8g
Whole Earth Organic Corn Flakes 1.8g
Kelloggs Honey Loops 1.8g
Top 5 worst offenders for sugar per 100g
Morrisons Choco Crackles 38.4g
Kelloggs Ricicles 37g
Kelloggs Frosties 37g
Kelloggs Coco Pops Moons & Stars 37g
Sainsburys Choco Rice Pops 36g
View the full Which? report here.
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