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Salt and sugars content of breakfast cereals in the UK from 1992 to 2015

  • Sonia Pombo-Rodrigues (a1), Kawther M Hashem (a1), Feng J He (a1) and Graham A MacGregor (a1)

To study the salt and sugars content of breakfast cereals sold in the UK between 1992 and 2015.


Cross-sectional surveys on salt and sugars content collected from the nutrition information panel of breakfast cereals in 1992, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2015.


All major UK retailers operating at that moment in time (approximately ten).


The salt and sugars content was collected from product packaging and the nutrition information panels.


Cereals consistently surveyed across all five years (n22) showed a significant reduction in salt content of 47 % (P<0·001). Sugars content of breakfast cereals (n 15), however, did not show a significant change; 25·65 g/100 g in 1992 and 22·45 g/100 g in 2015 (P=0·170). There was a large variation in salt and sugars content between different categories and within the same type of category.


The study shows the progressive reduction in salt content of breakfast cereals in the UK since 2004 as a result of the successful salt reduction programme, particularly the setting of incremental salt targets. Further reductions in salt content need to be made as cereals remain a major contributor to salt intake. Sugars content, however, has been consistently high due to the lack of a sugar reduction strategy. The research demonstrates that the sugars content of breakfast cereals in the UK is of concern, particularly in children’s breakfast cereals, with a typical serving (30 g) containing a third of a 4–6-year-old’s maximum daily recommendation (19 g/d) for free sugars intake in the UK. More can and should be done to reformulate, with an urgent need to set incremental sugar reduction targets.

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