Dr Ben Atkins BDS



Dr Ben Atkins BDS

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Dental Education

I’m with Jamie – but not in so many words!!

25th August 2015

Last week I was delighted to be asked for my thoughts about sugary breakfast cereals and their threat to our children’s dental health. The request came from the British Dental Health Foundation and the issue came to the forefront when Chef Jamie Oliver spoke out (in no uncertain terms) about the amounts of sugar in some breakfast cereals and those who promote the products.

His comments follow many others that have been made to try and get Breakfast Cereal Manufacturers to take more responsibility for the damaging effect they are having on the nation’s dental health and in particular, children’s teeth.

So it’s good that our leading oral health charity has joined the debate and in my role as a Trustee I put forwards my thoughts.

At last we have the public’s attention in the battle against excess sugar, probably more than ever before. But the one aspect of the food and drink industry which has escaped much of the nation’s anger on sugar, is the breakfast food industry. While Jamie Oliver is highlighting the effect of sugar on our waistlines we must not also forget the incredibly damaging effect that these sugars are having on our teeth. I believe breakfast cereal manufacturers are responsible for concealing the levels of sugar in their products and putting our children’s dental health is danger.

So, while you expect something like Sugar Puffs to contain high levels of sugar, products which are often seen as healthy, such as Kellogg’s Bran Flakes, can contain more than three teaspoons2 per serving, the equivalent to half a glass of Coca Cola. Nearly half of eight year olds have visible signs of decay on their teeth1 and this is simply unacceptable.

Tooth decay is the number one reason for hospitalisation in children and while we cannot blame the food and drink industry entirely they do have to take a sizeable portion of the blame when they are misleading people about sugar levels in foods.

It seems that sugary cereals have gone past the level of being a sweet treat and are now seen as the norm within our breakfast routines, this is not good; we would not give our children a packet of sweets at breakfast and some of these cereals are equally damaging. Breakfast should be a meal which sets us up for the day and filling up on sugar is not the best way to do this. Jamie Oliver’s previous calls on the government have seen changes made to school dinners and I hope his recent campaign will have a similar kind of impact on the breakfast cereal industry.

I’m not sure that we can trust the food and drink industry to make the necessary changes to help protect our children’s teeth themselves, so I applaud the British Dental Health Foundation’s stance to our call on the government to implement a tax on sugary drinks as well as sugary and fatty foods which could lead to oral health benefits for generations to come.