Action on Sugar has criticised cereal manufacturers for not using easy-to-read traffic light labelling on their packs.
The sugar expert group, based at Queen Mary University of London has accused manufacturers of deceiving shoppers by not making it easy enough for people to compare the nutritional content of cereals like for like. It conducted a survey of 25 breakfast cereal manufacturers and found that while the likes of Kellogg’s and Nestle did use front of pack nutrition labelling, they did not use the Department of Health’s recommended colour-coding. Six brands, including Rude Health an Dorset Cereals, had no front of pack labelling.
“Considering that front of pack traffic light colour-coded labelling has been recommended for years and adopted by many companies, it is frustrating that big and perceived healthier brands continue to refuse to use this form of helpful labelling,” said Kawther Hashem, a registered nutritionist and researcher at Action on Sugar.
“Consistent labels allow shoppers, at a glance, to see the huge variation in salt and sugar levels in breakfast cereals. Many of these cereals, often aimed at children, would receive a red traffic light label for being high in sugars. Companies need to reduce the sugar and salt levels now by working towards the sugar targets by 2020 and salt targets by the end of 2017 – and proudly display this on their front of pack nutrition labels.”
The group claims that consumers could reduce their sugar intake by 45 teaspoons a month if they could make informed decision by switching to a lower sugar cereal using consisted front of pack labelling.
It noted that some branded companies do use the government recommended colour-coded labelling, including Alpen, Honey Monster, Mornflake, Quaker Oats, Scott’s and Weetabix. However, it said there are at least three different label variations used by manufacturers on their products, leading to further confusion and making it difficult to compare products.
In a statement, Weetabix said that it introduced the traffic light system in 2016 to its Weetabix Original, Weetabix Protein and Ready Brek packaging.
Kevin Verbruggen, head of brand at Weetabix commented: “We want to make it easy for people to make a healthy choice. Weetabix has the easy-to-read traffic lights on all of its cereal packs to help shoppers to make a quick, informed decision. As the UK’s number one cereal brand, we have a responsibility to provide best-practice food labelling.
“Weetabix branded cereals already have less sugar than Public Health England’s guidelines for 2020. For example, Weetabix has always been a low sugar cereal.”
A spokesperson for Kellogg’s has said that it is working to cut down sugar levels in its cereals and has will have removed 2,000 tonnes of sugar from people’s diets by the end of the year.