Kellogg’s has been attacked for putting more sugar in some breakfast cereals than is found in cakes, donuts and ice cream. A bowl of Crunchy Nut cereal can contain more than half the recommended maximum intake of added sugar for a six-year-old.
Now an investigation has established that Kellogg’s helped fund a report, published in a medical journal in December, attacking the British government’s recommendations to cut sugar intake. It also funded studies suggesting eating cereals may help children stay a healthy weight.
Simon Capewell, a founder of Action on Sugar and professor in public health and policy at Britain’s Liverpool University, called on Kellogg’s to publish a list of the scientists and research organisations to which it pays fees and research grants. Coca-Cola published such a list in 2015 after a row over how its research funding influenced public health debate.
“They are funding scientists and organisations to undermine the established evidence that eating too much sugar is harmful,” Professor Capewell said.
One of the food-research organisations funded by Kellogg’s is the International Life Sciences Institute. Last year it funded research in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine that said the advice to cut sugar by Public Health England and other bodies such as the World Health Organisation could not be trusted.
The study, which claimed official guidance to cut sugar was based on “low-quality evidence”, stated it had been funded by an ILSI technical committee. Only by searching elsewhere for a list of committee members did it become clear that this comprised 15 food firms, including Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola and Tate & Lyle.
In 2013, Kellogg’s funded British research that concluded “regular consumption of breakfast cereals” might help children stay slimmer.
The study, published in the journal Obesity Facts, relied on evidence from 14 studies. Seven were funded by Kellogg’s and five were funded by the cereal company General Mills. Margaret Ashwell, a consultant to the food industry and one of the authors of the study, said all interests had been correctly disclosed.
Terence Kealey, a former vice-chancellor at Buckingham University and author of Breakfast Is a Dangerous Meal, warned last month that the scientific community had “fooled itself” about the benefits of breakfast.
Kellogg’s said it was committed to “slowly reducing sugar”. A spokesman said: “As a low-calorie, grain-based food choice we believe cereals have a role to play in tackling obesity. We follow appropriate guidelines for transparency and disclosure.”