Fortified Breakfast Cereal
~ November 1999 No.84 ~
If it looks like a breakfast cereal and tastes like a breakfast cereal then it is a breakfast cereal. Right? Well that depends on whether, when you were making the breakfast cereal you decided to make it more nutritious. As might be expected, it is the regulators that have made life just a little more complicated when it comes to deciding what is a breakfast cereal and what is not.
Food manufacturers have been quick to jump on the functional food band wagon. If the consumer is looking for food that is good for health, it is easy to change a product line to meet that demand. One of the easiest ways of doing that has been to produce new and improved food products that contain added vitamins, minerals or other nutrients. How many food labels have you seen recently that proclaim in eye-catching colour "now with added vitamin X or Y or Z". Up to a point that may be a good thing, especially since the nutrients added are usually found in foods in minute amounts. Many health claims are being made for constituents of normal foods. Unfortunately these constituents are generally present in foods in very small amounts. So eating an enriched food makes sense.
But what if one food has been fortified with so many things that are good for your health that all of your daily requirements are just about satisfied at one sitting? Then what? You have a problem, especially when you try to market your product in Canada.
In the breakfast cereal section of the grocery store there is a new product called Vector, made by Kellogg Company. Vector at first glance looks like many other cereal flakes. But it is more - a lot more. The side panel lists the ingredients and nutrition information and it is clear that Kellogg has decided to add a long list of nutrients to fortify their new product so that they can claim that it is an excellent source of 16 vitamins and minerals. But Vector contains such high levels of nutrients that the Canadian health regulatory agency has insisted that Vector cannot be called a breakfast cereal but rather a meal replacer. All of a sudden the concern has gone from consumers not getting enough of what is good for them to getting too much. One bowl of Vector plus milk supplies 18% of the daily requirement for vitamin C, but 56% of the zinc requirement. Depending on the brand you usually eat, these values are about twice the amount you would get in "regular" cereal.
It is evident that as more and more of our foods become enriched, there will be increased choices on how to increase our intake of specific nutrients that are good for health. However, as manufacturers add higher levels of nutrients to their products, problems may arise. The informed consumer must be ever more vigilant. Product ingredient lists, and nutrition information are on foods to help us make choices. Read them carefully.