The study found that main sources of sugar at breakfast time included sugary cereals, drinks, and spreads

Children are consuming more than half the daily recommended sugar intake before they even get to school, according to a new study by Public Health England.

PHE found children in England consumed more than 11g of sugar at breakfast time alone, or nearly three sugar cubes, while the recommended daily maximum is no more than five cubes of sugar for children between four and six years old and no more than six cubes for seven to 10-year-olds per day.

PHE, backed by researchers from the British Nutrition Foundation, surveyed 200 parents of children aged between four and 10 about their child’s breakfasts and studied the sugar content of the meals involved.

They found that by the end of an average day children were consuming more than three times these recommendations.

The survey, conducted for PHE’s Change4Life campaign, also discovered widespread ignorance among parents about what makes a healthy breakfast for their children, with over eight in 10 parents (84%) of those whose children were consuming too much considering their child’s breakfast healthy.

It said the main sources of sugar at breakfast time included sugary cereals, drinks, and spreads, as well as confectionery, biscuits, muffins, pastries and soft drinks, which all contribute to an unhealthy diet.

It urged parents to use its Be Food Smart app, which allows shoppers to scan barcodes of products to show sugar levels.

Today’s study comes with PHE currently locked in talks with the industry about a series of voluntary reformulation targets across key sectors including cereals, confectionery and morning goods.

PHE’s survey also found eight in 10 parents (81%) supported the talks and believed food manufacturers had a responsibility to reduce sugar in their products.

“Children have far too much sugar, and a lot of it is before their first lesson of the day. It’s crucial for children to have a healthy breakfast, but we know the mornings in a busy household can be fraught,” said PHE chief nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone.

“That’s why we’ve developed our Be Food Smart app, taking some of the pressure off parents and helping them to choose healthier food and drink options for their children.”

Sara Stanner, science director at the British Nutrition Foundation, said: “When analysing a number of breakfasts from families across England, we were concerned to see the high amount of free sugars and low amount of fibre in many of these.

“We know a healthy breakfast can make an important contribution to children’s vitamin and mineral intakes and its consumption has been linked to many positive health outcomes. There are plenty of healthier options available so we need campaigns like Change4Life to help busy parents make the right choices for their families.”

Kawther Hashem, nutritionist at Action on Sugar, said:“Yet again a survey shows the staggering amount of sugar consumed by children in the UK. It is time food manufacturers reduced the amount of added sugar in popular products and joined Public Health England’s sugar reduction programme immediately to help tackle childhood obesity.

”We fully support the Change4Life Be Food Smart app and encourage parents to use the app when shopping.”