VEGA News Item

Grapes of Wrath over some Breakfast Cereals - 07/08/2009

Grape-nuts are “a high-fibre, low-fat cereal made from crunchy wheat and malted barley.”

1. A side panel on the packet states: “Our naturally sweet cereal was created in 1897 by Charles W Post in Battle Creek, Michigan, USA.  Post selected the rather unusual name because the cereal contained maltose, which he called ‘grape sugar,’ and the distinctive flavor reminded him of nuts.  Today, we still make Grape-Nuts in an old-fashioned gas-fired oven, which accounts for their unique appearance and taste Grape.  Nuts differ from ordinary cereals as each wholesome nugget stays deliciously crunchy in milk.”

2. Claims on the front of the packet add that grape-nuts are “high in fibre, low in fat” and “taste delicious with fruit;” further, it contains “no added sugar.”  The list of ingredients runs as follows: whole wheat flour (52%), wheat flour (33%), malted barley flour (9.5%), salt, yeast, iron, niacin, vitamin B6, zinc oxide, vitamin A, thiamin, folacin, vitamin D.  “Start your day with the wholesome goodness and delicious taste of grape-nuts” invites the message on the back of the packet.  “Each serving of Grape-Nuts is fortified with 6 vitamins.  Grape-Nuts provide an excellent source of folic acid and iron,” the messages continue, and “contain wholegrain Wheat flour, which is high in dietary fibre,” and is “a great-tasting part of low-fat, healthy balanced diet.”  It explains that “People with a healthy diet tend to eat more whole grain foods as part of a healthy lifestyle,” the claims continue, introducing the unexceptionable elements of a healthy lifestyle.  (Grape-Nuts is produced in the USA and distributed in the UK, so the claims have to try to meet European and North American standards and methods of analysis (which are at present under revision in Europe for fibre).

3. Grape-Nuts was an example of the Kellogg’s trend at the end of the 19th-century for health-foods and lifestyles and health-farms called sanitaria (so spelt).  These places spawned a range of breakfast foods based on cereals, dried fruits, and nuts, in themselves they might have little weight or nutritive value but they provided a crunchy accompaniment to promote, especially among children, consumption of milks with esteemed nutritive attributes.  They gained worldwide popularity, particularly where the milks were safe (microbiologically, i.e. pasteurized or sterilized and, latterly, UHT). Later developments in the form of muesli, for instance, and additions of flavouring and cooking adjustments and then of specific, mainly synthetic, vitamins and minerals to enhance the nutritional values, made the alternative cereal breakfast a significant dietary contender, at least for working or school days.  They also qualified for the attentions and purview of the Campaign for Real Bread, with the further significance of dietary fibre and compositions, especially of salt, sugar, and fat.
4. Tea and coffee offered other ways of ensuring consumption of liquid milks.  In recent years the Food Standards Authority in the UK has had to tackle the food manufacturers’ pleas for assessments of their products nutritionally in tandem, but the industry failed to produce a consensus or consistency over the proportions of the servings.  For Grape-Nuts the pairing would involve a serving of 45gm and, say, 50ml of milk.  The serving itself contributes low levels of the guideline daily amounts, GDAs, which would be exceeded by the fat or oil in the required composition of the milk – animal – or plant-derived and full-fat, semi-skimmed, or skimmed.  Semi-skimmed is now treated as standard.  A serving of, say, Grape-Nuts with milk will now present a new profile; if the milk is, say, unsweetened but fortified soya milk, the pairing would almost amount to a dietary supplement with some tasty adjuncts to contribute crunchiness.  The Grape-Nuts are fortified with vitamins A, D, thiamin (B1), iron, niacin, vitamin B6, folacin, and vitamin D and the minerals with iron, zinc oxide, and calcium.  The added vitamins in the soya milk comprise D, E, B2 (riboflavin) and B12 and the mineral calcium.  Salt added to the Grape-Nut mixture and gellan gum to the soya milk may add significant amounts of iodide. The FSA and food industry are therefore left with some tricky decisions in comparison and labelling, as well as the wider significance of fortification and supplements in diets and eating plans.

5. Approaching such problems from a different perspective, most of the supermarkets have designed Healthy Living cereal bars, such as Tesco’s, one example of which comprises “chunky moist cereal bars with apricots, almonds, oats, and pumpkin seeds, low in saturates and a good source of fibre.”  Its profile shows that each 40g bar contains 21% of an adult’s GDA in sugar.  This derives from the dried fruits; none is added, so this would be fructose, which has a glycemic index (GI) lower than other sugars such as glucose (dextrose), or sucrose.  The GI could be lowered further by consumption with a milk, but the result could not be easily measured.

6. The information on Grape-Nuts poses a test for authenticity, for there are no grapes among its ingredients, even in the form of raisins.  The Grape-Nuts have been fortified with several B vitamins, but not B12, and the soya milk lacks any addition of folic acid. The Healthy Living bars carry no information on added nutrients.



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