Joint Centre for Food Safety (CFS) / Consumer Council (CC) Study
Nutrition Labelling Series Article 5
Nutrient Content of Breakfast Cereal Products
1. The fifth article of Joint CFS/CC Nutrition Labelling Series examines nutrition labels of different breakfast cereal products for comparing their nutrient contents, especially the amounts of sugars and dietary fibre.
2. Between March and mid-June 2010, CFS and CC collected 38 samples of breakfast cereal products from supermarkets, including 21 cold-served breakfast cereals (e.g. cornflakes, cocoa crunch, etc) and 17 hot-served cereals. These hot-served cereals were further divided into two groups, the oatmeal or oat drinks and wheat drinks, according to the type of cereal in the product. Nutrition information on the labels was examined.
3. CFS tabulated the nutrient information listed on the nutrition labels of the products based on per 100g of food. According to the Nutrition Labelling Scheme, solid prepackaged foods with "low sugars" claim must contain not more than 5 g of sugars per 100g of food; those with "contain dietary fibre" claim must contain not less than 3g of dietary fibre per 100g of food; those with "high dietary fibre" claim must contain not less than 6g of dietary fibre per 100g of food. In addition, according to the shopping guide cards (or "shopping cards") produced by the CFS, which has made reference to overseas guidelines, prepackaged foods with more than 15g of sugars per 100g of food are considered high in sugars.
4. Main findings of the study are summarised in Table 1:
Table 1: Summary of Main Results
|No. of samples||Sugars range (g/100g)||Dietary fibre range (g/100g)||No. of samples with justified content claim in relation to sugars||No. of samples with justified content claim in relation to dietary fibre|
|Cold-served breakfast cereals||21||4.4-43||1.9-14.5||1||12|
Oatmeal or oat drinks
|Wheat drinks||6||9.4-50||0-5.7 (1)||0||1|
Note (1): Dietary fibre content was not labelled in one sample
5. Among the 21 cold-served breakfast cereal samples, in each 100g of food:
- The sugars content ranged from 4.4g to 43g. The majority (17 samples) contained more than 15g of sugars per 100g of food and therefore were considered high in sugars. For the sample with the highest sugars content, consuming a 28g-serving as stated on the nutrition label would take in about 12g of sugars, which would account for about a quarter of the daily intake limit for sugars (50g, based on a 2,000 kcal diet).
- The dietary fibre content ranged from 1.9g to 14.5g. The vast majority (20 samples) contained at least 3g of dietary fibre per 100g of food, 14 samples even reached 6g or more, suggesting that cold-served breakfast cereals generally contain significant amount of dietary fibre. For the sample with the highest dietary fibre content, consuming a 55g-serving as stated on the nutrition label would take in about 8g of dietary fibre, which would account for about a third of the target daily intake for dietary fibre (25g).
6. Among the hot-served cereal samples, in each 100g of dry cereals or powdered drinks:
- The sugars content ranged from 0g to 29.3g in oatmeal or oat drinks whereas that in wheat drinks ranged from 9.4g to 50g. For the wheat drink sample with the highest sugars content, consuming the reconstituted drink made from a 32g-sachet of powdered drink would take in about 16g of sugars, which would account for about a third of the daily intake limit for sugars (based on a 2,000 kcal diet).
- The dietary fibre content ranged from 5.6g to 24.4g in oatmeal or oat drinks whereas that in wheat drinks ranged from 0g to 5.7g. The dietary fibre content in oatmeal or oat drinks was generally higher than that of wheat drinks on a dry weight basis.
Advice to the Public
7. Consumers can consume wholegrain products (such as wholegrain breakfast cereals and oatmeal etc) more often if they want to increase their intake of dietary fibre.
8. When purchasing breakfast cereal products, consumers can refer to the nutrition labels and compare the nutritional content of different products, and choose the one lower in sugars. Breakfast cereal products with high sugars content should be consumed sparingly.
9. If time allows, consumers may prepare a bowl of "low sugars, low sodium, low fat and high fibre" oatmeal porridge using plain oatmeal, and moderate amounts of low fat milk, dried fruit or nuts.
10. The related article is also published in the CHOICE MAGAZINE (Issue 405 released on 15 July 2010) (Chinese only).
Centre for Food Safety
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department