Kellogg’s is adding vitamin D to all of its children’s cereals in response to an alarming resurgence of rickets.
The food giant hopes the move will ‘help avoid’ the bone-softening condition, which can cause youngsters to develop bowed legs.
Rickets is linked to a lack of vitamin D – which the body absorbs from spending time in the sun or eating foods such as oily fish and eggs – and was largely eliminated after the Second World War.
However, 82 per cent of paediatric dietitians have seen a rise in cases in the past five years, research published today shows. And nearly half have seen cases in the last year, according to the survey by Kellogg’s.
At the same time, the company’s research among Primary Care Trusts found that the number of children under ten admitted to hospital with rickets leapt by 140 per cent between 2001 and 2009.
Doctors say they are seeing a rise in cases because children are generally spending more time indoors on computer games and watching TV. At the same time, many parents worry about exposing their children to sunlight – with the risk of skin cancer – and cover them in high-protection creams.
Kellogg’s added vitamin D to some of its cereals – including Corn Flakes, Ricicles and Mini Max – earlier this year, and will make it part of all children’s cereals across most of Europe by the end of 2012.
It will be in Rice Krispies, for example, by March, and Frosties by September.
The move is welcomed by health experts. Jacqui Lowdon, of the British Dietetic Association’s Paediatric Group, said: ‘It is important children are encouraged to get some sun exposure without sunblock, more foods are fortified with vitamin D and supplementation is encouraged.’
Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Professor Nicholas Clarke at Southampton General Hospital said: ‘Vitamin D inclusion in cereal is essentially a good idea given the pathology we are seeing.’
European nutrition director at Kellogg’s, Alyson Greenhalgh-Ball, said: ‘Healthcare professionals would like to see the introduction of a recommended daily intake so we are clear on how much vitamin D children need to avoid these health issues.’
The company is keen to be seen as a champion of children’s health after being criticised for the relatively high levels of sugar and salt in many products.