BIG brand cereals high in sugar, salt and fat were named and shamed by campaigners today.
Among the worst offenders were popular breakfast offerings aimed at children.
The Consumers' Association looked at 100 cereals widely available in supermarkets and compared them with advice from the Food Standards Agency on what constituted ``a little'' or ``a lot'' of sugar, salt and fat. It found 85 brands with ``a lot'' of sugar,including Nestle Lion cereal, which the watchdog said was like the chocolate bar of the same name.
Forty of the cereals had ``a lot'' of salt in them. A serving of either Kellogg's All-Bran, Quaker Oat Krunchies or Nestle Golden Grahams contain four times the salt as a 25g bag of roasted peanuts, according to the results.
Nine had ``a lot'' of saturated fat, although the Consumers'Association also found 13 with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil or fat in the ingredients.
Foods with hydrogenated fats or oils contain trans fats which, like saturated fats, have been shown to raise blood cholesterol levels and are linked to an increased risks of heart disease.
The FSA considers ``a little'' sugar as 2gor less per 100gof a product, while ``a lot'' is 10gof sugar or more.
For salt, ``a little'' is 0.25g or less and ``a lot'' 1.25gormore. Many manufacturers list sodium rather than salt, so a good amount of sodium is seen as 0.1gor less and bad as 0.5gor more.
Finally,``a little'' fat in products is considered to be 3g or less per 100gof food, while ``a lot'' is 20gor more.
The Consumers'Association also found many cereal bars contain high amounts of saturated fat and provided less fibre than an equivalent bowl of cereal.
Nick Stace,director of communications at the association, said: ``Breakfast cereals have a healthy image, yet our research shows that big brand manufacturers are lacing them with such high levels of sugar and salt that it is no wonder we have a health crisis on our hands.''
Health minister Melanie Johnson said: ``High salt levels can lead to serious health problems including heart disease -one of the country's biggest killers.''
Kellogg's said in a statement: ``Independent research has proven that people who eat breakfast cereals tend to be slimmer than those who don't,because they have lower fat and higher carbohydrate intakes from not snacking as much and not having a high fat cooked breakfast.
``A jam sandwich, which is the most regular form of snacking between meals, has twice the calories of a bowl of Kellogg's cereal. Independent research has proven that kids who eat breakfast perform noticeably better at school than those who don't.
``Breakfast cereals are high in carbohydrates, which is the fuel that helps the brain operate effectively.
``Kellogg's cereals are a great source of key vitamins and minerals, which would be missed by those skipping breakfast.''
Martin Paterson,deputy director general of the Food and Drink Federation, said: ``Breakfast makes a major contribution to a well balanced diet.
``In May 2003, the Food and Drink Federation announced an industry wide programme to reduce salt - or more precisely sodium - for breakfast cereals''