Likening muesli to corn chips is misleading

Press Release 8/8/2012

Muesli plays an important part in an everyday balanced diet, and likening it to corn chips as a breakfast substitute is misleading and irresponsible, says Food & Grocery CEO Katherine Rich.

“Comparing muesli to corn chips is misleading in the extreme, but to do so on the results of a test on one brand is irresponsible.

“And Consumer’s suggestion that manufacturers use a traffic-light system to help tell consumers what’s in muesli is misinformed.

“Using a classic traffic light labelling system to compare the foods demonstrates once again why the system leads to unhelpful food messages, because it cannot discern between different sources of nutrients.

“Most muesli contains many of the nutritious ingredients we need for a balanced diet – fruit, nuts, and cereals. They are all ingredients that corn chips don’t have, as well as often being accompanied by the healthy addition of milk, which is important for people who might not otherwise consume milk.

“Let’s be fair about what muesli delivers. It’s a complex mix of cereals (generally whole grains), seeds, fruits and nuts. The dried fruit in muesli is high in sugar simply because the natural sugars are intensified by the drying process, while toasting muesli involves either a sugar-based syrup or an oil, increasing the sugar or fat levels.

“Added sugars and fats are a very small component of muesli – most come from natural sources, such as dried fruits, nuts, and whole grains. These ingredients are also a great source of other essential nutrients not tracked by the basic traffic light system which bluntly reduces everything just to fats, sugar, and sodium.

“Promoters of the classic traffic light system refuse to accept the basic flaws of this approach, in particular that it treats added sugar and sugar from natural fruits, for example raisins and apples, as being the same.

“Using the system applied by Consumer, an apple and a glass of sugary cordial would end up with the same ranking – three green lights and one red – which is unhelpful if someone is trying to make healthy choices.

“The Food and Grocery Council supports the Ministry of Health’s view that to achieve a healthy diet New Zealanders should eat a variety of healthy foods from each of the four major food groups: vegetables and fruit, breads and cereals (preferably wholegrain), milk and milk products (preferably reduced or low-fat options), and meat, seafood, and eggs.

“Most muesli contains something from two of those food groups, and three of them if you have it with milk.

“Breakfast should provide up to one third of the day’s sustenance for adults. Many people want their muesli to be sustaining for this reason. They want a breakfast that sets them up for the day but they also want variety and taste.”

Read the Fairfax report here.