Cereal bars healthy reputation has come under fire as new research show the snacks have high levels of fat, sugar and calorie content.
A study by Which? found all but one of the 30 best selling cereal bar brands were high in sugar content – with 16 bars having more than 30% sugar.
A popular bar – Nutrigrain Elevensies – was found to contain almost four teaspoons worth of sugar – 18g - more than a 150ml can of cola (15.9) – accounting for 20% of a person’s recommended daily allowance.
“Shockingly”, Monster Puffs, a cereal bar marketed to children and described as “great for your lunchbox”, contained 43.5% sugar, the equivalent of more than two teaspoons of sugar.
Furthermore, six out of the seven cereal bars targeted at children were high in saturated fat.
“People often choose cereal bars in the belief they’re healthier than chocolate or biscuits but our research shows this can be a myth,” said Richard Lloyd, Executive Director of Which?
“With high levels of sugar and saturated fat in some of these products they should be on the sweet counter not marketed as health foods.
“Manufacturers need to be much clearer about how much sugar, fat and calories are loaded in to each bar so people can make an informed choice. We want all foods to have traffic light colour coding system so people can see easily what they’re eating and giving to their children.”
A spokesperson from Kellogs – the manufacturer of the Nutrigrain Elevensies bar – said they were “confused” as to why anyone would call a the snack a cereal bar.
“It is a baked bar and looks and eats much more like a muffin or cake,” they said.
“We bake it like a cake and market it as a mid morning snack. “In fact compared to other similar mid morning snacks, it’s one of the choices that has slightly less sugar than the norm.”
Some cereal bars tested were found to have lived up to their healthy reputation.
The Nakd Apple Pie was the only bar studied that was found not to contain any added sugar and the Alpen Light Apple and Sultana was the only bar to have three green traffic lights for fat, saturated fat and salt indicating that the levels were low – and also had the lowest calories overall.
The Which? research also noted the Weetabix Oaty Strawberry Crusher bar was the healthiest choice for children with its low salt content and medium levels of fat and saturated fat.
Manufacturers have been warned by Which? to reduce the levels of sugar and fat in food products marketed to children and ensure there are tighter controls over the way they are promoted.