The UK consumer advocacy group commissioned a survey of 15 leading cereal bar and breakfast biscuits to investigate sugar levels. Brands included Eat Natural, Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain, Alpen and Nature Valley.
Findings showed two products – Kellogg’s Coco Pops bar and Eat Natural fruit and nut bar – contain more than 40 grams of sugar per 100 g product; levels that proved the bars “don’t live up to their healthy image”, Which? said.
“We found a Kellogg’s Coco Pops snack bar – aimed at children – was the worst offender of those we looked at, made up of a staggering 42% sugar. Others marketed at children, such as Kellogg’s Rice Krispie bar and Frosties Bar and Harvest Chewee (milk choc chip) were also high in sugar and saturated fat,” it said.
Of the 15 bars and biscuits surveyed, 12 had ‘high’ sugar levels that would be listed ‘red’ under traffic-light labeling – ranging from 22.3 g in McVities oat and honey breakfast biscuits to 42 g in the Kellogg bar and 40.6 g in Eat Natural’s fruit and nut bar. Eight out of 15 contained 30% or more sugar.
The UK’s Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) on sugar are 120 g for men, 90 g for women and 85 g for children. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently said consumers should get no more than 10% of their daily calories from free sugars and recommended 5% would be even better.
Findings echoed an earlier study conducted by Which? in 2012 that showed the 30 best-selling cereal bar brands were high in sugar, saturated fats and calories.
Asked why the sugar levels were so high in its Coco Pops snack bar, Kellogg UK said: “There are fewer than two teaspoons of sugar in a Coco Pops Snack Bar – that’s 9% of your reference intake (RI). We clearly label all our foods sopeople can make informed decisions about what they buy.”
Traffic light labeling needed
Out of the 15 bars surveyed, only one - Mars’ Tracker bar - used clear traffic light nutrition labeling, something Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said was worrying.
“We now want the government to tackle this issue head on by making sure all manufacturers use traffic light nutrition labeling, encouraging reductions in sugar, fat and salt and ensuring manufacturers promote their products responsibly,” he said.
A consumer online survey of 2,102 UK adults showed that one-quarter of people were satisfied with the action government was taking to help people eat healthily. The top actions they wanted from government included encouraging industry to lower the fat, sugar and salt content in foods and ensure food firms don’t use tactics to appeal to kids with less healthy products.
PepsiCo has already signed up to the UK’s Public Health Responsibility Pledge for front-of-pack labeling, but has yet to roll this out on products.