Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents
Kellogg's Froot Loops - $5.99 for 285g.
There is just something irresistible to children about food which comes in fun colours and Froot Loops certainly fulfils that expectation. It even has the sell line "a fun fuel for adventurous kids".
I had this extremely colourful and enticing box in my office when my 3-year-old granddaughter came to visit. She regards my office as our "second" kitchen because she might find all sorts of wonderful foods lined up ready to analyse for this column. I was in the "first" kitchen when she appeared clutching the box of Froot Loops with a look of wonderment on her face. "Grandma can I please have these in a bowl with some milk?"
Something about the packaging had managed to tell her that a) she desperately needed to eat these and b) it was a cereal you had in a bowl with milk.
I gently pried them off her with promises of other treats and hid them in the pantry.
Only to find my 25-year-old son had succumbed to the same marketing message and had eaten them.
The cereal aisle is a minefield for parents these days, anxious to find a cereal their children will enjoy eating, which fills them up with good nutrition and not too much sugar.
Cereals (58 per cent)
This is a breakfast cereal so it is good to see 58 per cent of this food is cereals, which in this case are cornmeal, wheatflour and oatmeal. Not a lot of wholegrains in there however. And you do have to wonder what makes up the other 42 per cent.
And here is most of it. The sugar content is 38 per cent which is an awful lot of sugar. For each serving with milk, which is how kids eat their cereal, they will get 18.4 g which is 4.3 teaspoons. Without milk, they will get 2.7 teaspoons
This is a low-fat cereal with just 0.4g per serve or with milk 2.5g.
There are four colourings used in this cereal to make six colours. Three are artificial and have question marks over them, and one is completely natural.
The colours used are Sunset Yellow FCF (110), which is banned in Norway and Finland. The United Kingdom requested a voluntary withdrawal of this colouring in all its foods and it is thought that most foods manufactured in the UK do not use this colouring any more.
Allura Red AC (129) is not a popular artificial colouring. It is banned in Denmark, Belgium, France and Switzerland, and was in Norway until 2001. Last year, the Centre for Science in the Public Interest called for the US Food and Drug Administration to ban it and other artificial colourings, saying: "These synthetic chemicals do absolutely nothing to improve the nutritional quality or safety of foods, but trigger behaviour problems in children and, possibly, cancer in anybody."
Brilliant blue (133) is a synthetic coal tar dye that was banned in Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and Norway because of concerns it is a carcinogen but that ban has since been lifted. However, it is now banned in Argentina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, Mauritius, Morocco, Poland, Portugal, Trinidad and Turkey.
Turmeric (100) is a natural dye take from the spice turmeric which is ground up from a bright yellow root, similar to ginger.
Another name for glucose, a simple sugar.
Vitamins (vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, folate)
It is common for cereal manufacturers to add vitamins into breakfast cereals to make them more nutritious. Which is admirable but your kids would do better by eating the following real foods:
Fruit and tomatoes (vitamin C) fish and wholegrains (niacin), eggs, seeds, wholegrains and yoghurt (riboflavin), wholegrains and seeds (thiamine) and avocado, peanuts, corn (folate).
Minerals (iron, zinc oxide)
Again these are added but you could get the same minerals by eating the following real foods:
Wholegrains, chickpeas, lentils (iron), fish, wholegrains, yoghurt (zinc).
Natural flavours (orange, lemon, raspberry, cherry, lime)
It says natural so it must be natural. If there are any artificial or nature-identical flavours in here they would have to label them as such according to our food labelling laws.
There is no doubt your kids will love this cereal and hoover it down. But why not teach your children that real food doesn't come in six fun, mostly artificial colours? Most children are happy to eat Weet-Bix, which by comparison has only 0.8g of sugar per serve, or 6.8g per serve with milk. It also uses wholegrains and has more fibre. Top it with some fresh fruit like strawberries and peaches and you have a great breakfast with plenty of natural colour. And perhaps follow a rule for eating by the author of Food Rules, Michael Pollan, who says: "Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the colour of the milk."
* Contains 38% sugar.
* Has three artificial colours which are banned in other countries.
* Uses natural flavourings.
Want to know more?
Read Wendyl's columns on other food products here.
Do you have a food product you would like featured in Wendyl Wants to Know? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions. Unfortunately Wendyl cannot correspond with readers.