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Highly fortified cereals called risky for kids

| Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Young children who dig into a bowl of fortified breakfast cereal may be getting too much of a good thing.

A new report says that “millions of children are ingesting potentially unhealthy amounts” of vitamin A, zinc and niacin, with fortified breakfast cereals the leading source of the excessive intake, because all three nutrients are added in amounts calculated for adults.

Outdated nutritional labeling rules and misleading marketing by food manufacturers who use high fortification levels to make their products appear more nutritious fuel this potential risk, according to the report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington-based health research and advocacy organization.

The Food and Drug Administration is updating nutrition facts labels that appear on most food packages. None of its proposed changes address the issue of over-consumption of fortified micronutrients, or that the recommended percent daily values for nutrition content that appear on the labels are based on adults,, says Renée Sharp, EWG's director of research. Only “a tiny, tiny percentage” of cereal packages carry nutrition labels that list age-specific daily values, Sharp says.

The daily values for most vitamins and minerals that appear on nutrition facts labels were set by the FDA in 1968 and haven't been updated, she says, making them “wildly out-of-sync” with levels deemed safe by the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences.

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 lead to health issues such as liver damage and skeletal abnormalities.

Cereals with the highest added nutrient levels include national brands such as Kellogg's Product 19 and General Mills Total Raisin Bran, as well as store brands from Food Lion, Safeway and Stop & Shop.

Kellogg spokesperson Kris Charles said, “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.”

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