In a new report by the Environmental Working Group, a health-based research organization in D.C., it was revealed that children are ingesting dangerous levels of vitamin A, niacin, and zinc in fortified cereals whose added nutrients were calculated based on an adult diet.
The report looked at so-called fortified cereals, that in spite of their already lackluster nutritional value, can be boosted with appeals to health-conscious parents by adding labels indicating nutritional benefits.
EWG studied 1,566 breakfast cereals and 1,025 snack/energy bars, and found that 23 cereals were fortified with nutrients in the amount of "much greater" than children ages 8 and younger should be consuming.
Via USA Today:
When combining food intake and vitamin supplements, the report calculates that more than 10 million American children are getting too much vitamin A; more than 13 million get excessive too much zinc; and nearly 5 million get too much niacin.
The breakfast cereals with the highest added nutrient levels were Kellogg's Product 19 and General Mills Total Raisin Brain, as well as a number of store brands from places like Food Lion, Safeway, and Stop & Shop.
According to the EWG report, high levels of niacin, vitamin A, or zinc can have adverse health affects for children under 8.
Getting adequate amounts of all three nutrients is needed to maintain health and prevent disease, but the report says that routinely ingesting too much vitamin A can, over time, lead to health issues such as liver damage and skeletal abnormalities. High zinc intakes can impair copper absorption and negatively affect red and white blood cells and immune function, and consuming too much niacin can cause short-term symptoms such as rash, nausea and vomiting, the report says.
Kris Charles, a spokesperson for Kellogg, provided a statement that doesn't really say much except "kids don't eat fruits and vegetables so they should eat our shitty cereal for nutrients."
From his statement:
"The report ignores a great deal of the nutrition science and consumption data showing that without fortification of foods such as ready-to-eat cereals, many children would not get enough vitamins & minerals in their diets. Less than 2 percent of all cereals assessed by EWG made their "Top 23" list and the vast majority of these are adult-oriented cereals not regularly consumed by children."
The FDA was typically evasive on the issue, suggesting that they'd been able to consider proposed daily estimates of vitamin intake for infants and young children but not kids between 4 and 8. Renée Sharp, EWG's director of research, told USA Today that most nutritional labels on our foods haven't been updated since 1968, a problem that the FDA aims to remedy this year.
[Image via AP]