Public health officials in Liverpool are the first in the country to highlight the amount of sugar in specific breakfast cereals.
‘Save Kids from Sugar’ is the latest phase of the city’s war on sugar, which began last year when the city identified the high number of sugar cubes in some popular drinks.
Analysis shows that some cereals contain over 3.5 sugar cubes per serving, which means a child could be having over half their maximum daily allowance – six cubes – before they leave for school.
When added to drinks and snacks later in the day, some children could be having up to 20 cubes in one day – more than three times the recommended number.
Over the next three months, Public Health Liverpool is highlighting the issue with a digital media campaign backed up by pop ups, posters and leaflets in health centres, dentist surgeries, Children’s Centres and hospitals identifying how many sugar cubes are in an average serving of popular brands.
Parents can log on to a new website – savekidsfromsugar.co.uk – and calculate how much sugar their children are consuming each day and get tips on healthier breakfasts.
There will also be events at supermarkets and public buildings to educate families, a community street fair in Walton, and the Public Health team will also be working with school breakfast clubs on healthy options.
The drive is aimed at tackling an alarming level of childhood obesity in the city with 12% of reception school age children classed as obese. Over 23% of year 6 children are obese, and almost 40% are overweight or obese.
Too much sugar in a child’s diet can lead to obesity, tooth decay, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some common cancers in the future
Children aged between four and 10 years old consume approximately 5,500 sugar cubes each year hidden in their food and drink – more than the total body weight of an average five-year-old child
Councillor Tim Beaumont, Mayoral lead for wellbeing, said: “It is a myth that breakfast cereals are a healthy choice. Some are, but most are loaded with sugar. Families simply don’t realise how much is in them.
“Combined with other sugary snacks, drinks and chocolate bars, this is contributing to an alarming level of tooth decay and obesity in children. Dentists are having to remove teeth from children as young as five under general anaesthetic on a weekly basis.”
“Almost a third of five year olds in Liverpool have decayed, missing or filled teeth, with 2 children a day under the age of 10 having to be admitted to hospital to get teeth removed.
“This is about getting families and young children into healthy habits which will hopefully last a lifetime and prevent future unnecessary pain and trauma as well as debilitating health conditions.”
The Liverpool campaign breaks cereals down in to high and medium sugar classifications and also recommends healthier options.
High sugar (between 2.4 and 3.7 sugar cubes per serving): Frosties, Cocopops, Coco Shreddies, Cookie Crisp and Krave plus supermarket own brands including Frosted Flakes, Choco Rice and Honey Nut
Medium sugar (between 1 and 2.2 sugar cubes per serving): Cheerios, Weetos, Shreddies, Rice Krispies plus supermarket own brands including Multigrain Hoops and Chocopops
Healthier options (less than half a sugar cube per serving): Shredded Wheat, Wheat Shreds, Ready Brek, Porridge Oats and Weetabix, or alternatives such as a boiled egg, scrambled egg or toast.
Director of Public Health, Dr Sandra Davies, said: “Tackling sugar in diets is a real priority for us because we know that people simply don’t realise how much they are consuming.
“If we are to stand any chance of tackling this ticking time bomb, we must give parents as much information as possible so they can make informed decisions.
“Most people don’t have the time to read labels when racing around the supermarket to complete their weekly shop and so we have to support them to make healthier choices.”
The campaign is being backed by Liverpool-based campaign group Food Active. Alex Holt, Food and Nutrition Lead said: “There are surprising amounts of sugar in everyday food and drink that we give our children and, without realising it, we all have too much sugar.
“Sugars are hidden in many foods, which people are unaware of and even creep into savoury items such as pasta sauces. Parents can make sure they limit the amount of sugar their children eat by reading the labels to make sure they are choosing low sugar varieties where possible.
“The amount of added sugar can really add up over the day, so starting with a low sugar breakfast and choosing water or milk for drinks, and fruit as snacks really can make a difference. You can also offer your child a reward such as a trip to the park, rather than a sweet treat.”
THE NUMBER OF SUGAR CUBES IN A 40g SERVING OF POPULAR BREAKFAST CEREALS
• Keep sugary drinks, snacks and treats to mealtime and have only occasionally
• Encourage your child to drink only water and milk between meals
• Always check labels for sugar content
• Get your child to brush their teeth twice a day
• Take your child to the dentist at least from the age of one