Some breakfast cereals contain the same level of sugar as a bar of chocolate, while others contain almost as much fat as a McDonald's McBacon Roll, a new UK study has found.
The research was carried out by Which? (formerly the British Consumers' Association) and involved 275 cereals, many of which are available in Ireland. This was a follow-up to a 2004 study, which looked at 100 breakfast cereals.
According to Which?, despite widespread public concern about obesity and diet-related disease, 'cereals are almost as sugary now as when we looked at 100 branded cereals two years ago'.
In fact, 79% of cereals looked at this time around contained 'a lot' of sugar, compared with 85% in 2004.
Although the amount of salt being used had fallen. This time around, 28% of cereals were found to contain 'a lot' of salt, compared to 40% in 2004.
However the study pointed out that 90% of cereals that targeted children were high in sugar, 13% were high in salt and 10% were high in saturated fat.
Overall, some of the worst offenders when it came to sugar were Tesco Golden Honey Puffs (49.5g of sugar per 100g) and Kellogg's Ricicles (40g per 100g). These amounts are equal to 10 or more teaspoons of sugar per 100g and are greater than the amount of sugar found in a Toffee Crisp chocolate bar (47.9g).
When it came to salt, some of the worst offenders were Kellogg's All-Bran, with 0.9g of salt per average serving and Nestle Golden Grahams (0.75g). The recommended daily allowance of salt for adults is 6g, however children aged one to three should eat no more than 2g per day, those aged four to six should eat no more than 3g, while seven to 10-year-olds should eat no more than 5g.
Meanwhile the study notes that the fat content of cereals is generally 'low to medium'. However it points out that with 28.5g of fat per 100g, Jordan's Country Crisp Four Nut Combo contains 'around the same amount of fat as a McDonald's McBacon Roll'.
The researchers emphasised the fact that manufacturers tend to print any potential nutritional benefits 'in big colourful letters'. Examples of this include:
-Nestle Fitnesse and Fitnesse & Fruit are both high in sugar, but claim respectively to be 99% or 98% fat free.
-Kellogg's Special K is high in sugar and salt, but claims to be 99% fat free.
Overall, the 'best of the bunch' included Nestle Shredded Wheat (including Bitesize), Tesco Value Wheat Biscuits, Kellogg's Honey Nut Loops and Weetabix Ready Brek Original.
The study counted 52 cereals that were targeted at children through methods such as free giveaways, competitions and the use of cartoon characters or other child-friendly images.
The full report, Cereal Re-offenders, can be viewed at...