“When a consumer picks up a box of cereal covered in cartoon characters that is clearly marketed to children and sees that one serving provides 50 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin A, she may think that it provides 50 percent of a child’s recommended intake,” reads a new report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). “She would most likely be wrong. If the label has the signature small-print phrase, ‘Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet,’ that means that the nutrition label is based on the adult Daily Values.
“Moreover, for vitamin A, zinc and niacin, the numbers described by FDA as ‘Daily Value for adults and children 4 or more years of age’ actually exceed the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels for children 8 and younger.”
EWG’s comprehensive study of vitamin-fortified foods shows that pumped-up cereals and snack bars are putting kids’ health at risk. Excessive amounts of vitamins, especially vitamin A, zinc and niacin, can damage a child’s organs and internal systems. The concentrations of synthetic nutrients added to breakfast products are being formulated not for a child’s health needs, but rather for the needs and wants of the marketing department.
Large cereal manufacturers have learned the profitable lesson that putting health claims on a box will deflect a consumer’s attention from the sugary, artificial content within. “Any health or health-like claim on a food product — vitamins added, no trans fats, organic — makes people believe that the product has fewer calories and is a health food,” New York University professor of nutrition Marion Nestle explains in the report.
Citing results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, EWG notes that “with the exception of vitamins D and E and calcium, dietary deficiencies of vitamins and minerals are rare among children 8 and younger in the United States. For young children, the problem is the opposite — the risk of too much intake of some nutrients from fortified foods and supplements.
“One recent study by a joint research team of the National Institutes of Health and California Polytechnic State University found that children younger than 8 are at risk of consuming vitamin A, zinc and niacin at levels above the Institute of Medicine’s Tolerable Upper Intake Level. The study found that from food alone, including naturally occurring and fortified sources, 45 percent of 2-to-8-year-old children consume too much zinc, 13 percent get too much vitamin A and 8 percent consume too much niacin. …”
“A number of factors make children’s excessive intake of vitamin A, zinc and niacin a health concern: 1) These micronutrients are present naturally in food and are also added to many foods children and toddlers eat, including milk, meat, enriched bread and snacks. 2) Many cereals and snack bars are fortified at levels that the FDA considers high, exceeding the amounts children need and in some cases exceeding the safe upper limits for young children in a single serving. 3) Intentional or accidental fortification ‘overages’ by manufacturers can make actual exposures
greater than the amounts indicated on the nutrition label. 4) Many children eat more than a single serving at a sitting because the serving sizes listed on many packaged foods do not reflect the larger amounts people actually eat. 5) A third of all children, and as many as 45 percent of the younger age groups, take dietary supplements.”
EWG concludes: “Excessive exposure to fortified nutrients is the result of unscrupulous marketing, flawed nutrition labeling and outdated fortification policy. The current nutrition labeling system puts children’s health at risk and is in dire need of reform.”
Read the full report here: http://bit.ly/1joGJzk