Monday, 7 January 2013

Cereal offenders

A toothless tiger? Is that all the sugar?
However, over the weekend, I admit to actually being shocked to the point of total gobsmackedness.

No, not by the news that the Labour Party is considering the issue of a cap on sugar in breakfast cereals, but the mere fact that, on the basis that the suggested cap is 30%, it seems that some cereals currently consist of more than 30% sugar.

Now I’m well aware that such products do include sugar – no matter how much they're marketed as a healthy product – but to contain more that 30% sugar?

Labour, being terrified of the corporate lobby, is only floating the idea of a cap. And it seems that cereals that are particularly targeted at children are the man concern.

Mind, you can guarantee that this soon became all about whether the party would ban Tony the Tiger and the grrrrrrrrrreat start to the day that is a bowl of Frosties.

Say you’re a dedicated enough shopper that you check labels before putting a product in your basket. Now okay, you’ll know that Frosties and many other cereals have sugar in them.

You’ll possibly also be aware that, ingredients are listed in order of quantity, so if it lists sugar second, then that’s because it’s the second biggest ingredient.

But it’s less likely that you’ll spot, further down the list, high fructose corn syrup – or whatever other term it’s listed as – and yet many cereals do include this.

Even a cereal such as Bran Flakes has sugar as the third ingredient – plus salt. And honey. And this is a cereal that, to read the blurb, you would believe was a gift to better health.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting anyone cut out sugar altogether. But one aspect of the overall problem is hidden sugar and disingenuous marketing in products that are sold on the basis of ‘healthiness’.

You might buy a pizza, opting for what you think is a pretty healthy topping, but some companies use high fructose corn syrup to glaze the base. Is that somewhere that people really expect to find sugar? I doubt it, personally.

“Enjoy regularly within a healthy diet and lifestyle” adds the blurb for Müller’s low-fat, fruity yogurts. Yet have a guess what the third ingredient is- yup: sugar.

So why does the food industry behave like this?

Well, it’s obvious: money.

Even though there is an increasing understanding of the problems caused by the hidden sugars in processed foods, most people still believe that the really big demon is fat – and big food is more than happy to play along with that.

The trouble is, when you strip all the fat out of something, you need then to find a way of making it palatable. That’s what they have to do with margarine – as well as adding artificial colour, since removing the fat renders the product grey. And nobody is going to want to spread a grey substance on their toast, no matter how healthy its manufacturers claim it is.

Labour’s ideas are merely tinkering around the edges. The problem in this situation is that big food is a hugely powerful lobby and can get away with a great deal that many people would view as downright immoral. And I never use that word lightly.

There are commentators who believe that the entire added sugar approach is going to come down on the head of manufacturers very soon – in much the same way that tobacco companies have been hit.

Let's face it – it's a very long time since anyone was claiming that tobacco was good for you – yet companies are still claiming that products that contain sugar are specifically healthy, as we've seen.

Ancel Keyes and the whole ‘fat-is-evil’ farce have a great deal to answer for.

But more than 30% sugar in breakfast cereals for children? Grrrrrrrr.

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