Wendyl wants to know: There's nothing artificial about this sweet treat

By Wendyl Nissen

Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes its content

Rocky Road Mallows. Photo / Wendyl Nissen
Rocky Road Mallows. Photo / Wendyl Nissen

Select Rocky Road Mallows
$2.49 for 190g

The use of artificial colours by food manufacturers in this country is still widely accepted and approved by the bi-national agency Food Standards Australia New Zealand, despite many other countries working to get them out of food.

In the UK there has been a voluntary withdrawal of six artificial food colours still allowed for use here. The European Union requires a health warning on any food using the same six colours. Although other governments seem able to move towards getting rid of these additives, ours has no plans for change.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Progressive Enterprises, which owns Countdown supermarkets, has made a decision to ban artificial flavours and colours from their Select brand of foods. This is a move to be congratulated for their foresight and awareness of consumer concern around these additives.

When I began this column two years ago the thought that a supermarket chain might step outside the Food Standards Code and make this step towards producing safe, affordable food seemed a big ask.

This week I take a look at one of their biscuit offerings and am so grateful that instead of using an artificial red and an artificial raspberry flavour they have opted for natural alternatives.

Well done you, Progressive Enterprises.


Milk chocolate
(47 per cent) (sugar, milk solids, cocoa butter, coca mass, vegetable emulsifiers (322 from soy, 476), natural vanilla flavour.

These are the usual ingredients for milk chocolate with emulsifiers soy lecithin (322) and polyclycerol polyricinoleate (476), neither of which have health concerns. Nice to see natural vanilla flavour in here, which isn't always the case with chocolate.

(19 per cent) (sugar, glucose syrup, water, invert syrup, stabiliser (gelatine (beef)), natural colour (120))

Standard ingredients for marshmallow, which is basically gelled sugar. The gelatine used is from beef, and this is nice to know. Some vegetarians don't like to eat this, so it's great to have the information. And it's nice to see carmine or cochineal used as a natural red colour.

Wheat flour

Raspberry-flavoured filling
(6 per cent) (glucose syrup, sugar, apple pulp, thickeners (1442, 440), acidity regulators (334, 331) natural flavour (raspberry) natural colour (120)

So many raspberry-flavoured items feature nasty artificial colourings such as amaranth, which has been banned in the US since 1976. Instead carmine or cochineal has been used with a natural raspberry flavour. The thickeners are pectin (440), which is a natural substance found in fruits, and a treated starch (1442). The acidity regulators are tartaric acid (334) and sodium citrates (331), both naturally occurring.

(6 per cent)

Vegetable fat
(palm) (antioxidant (306 from soy))

Again, nice to see the vegetable fat named as palm oil. Some palm oil is now produced from renewable sources but three-quarters of all palm oil comes from Malaysia and Indonesia where rainforests, housing the Bornean and Sumatran orang-utans and other flora and fauna, are being destroyed. Some people like to avoid eating it and so listing it here allows them that choice.

The antioxidant in the oil is tocopherols, which are also known as vitamin E, in this case taken from soy.

Sugar levels in this product are high at 63 per cent so this level puts these biscuits firmly in the "treat" category.

Invert syrup
This is liquid sugar.


Raising agents
(500, 450)

These are baking soda (500) and disphosphates (450).

Vegetable emulsifier
(322 from soy)

This emulsifier is soy lecithin, as above.

My recommendations:

If you are going to buy a high sugar, treat food for your family then I think choosing one without artificial flavours and colours not only protects your family from these additives but also supports Progressive Enterprises for being one of the few major food producers to take artificial colours and flavours out of their foods.

Many major food producers justify their use of artificial substances because they are approved for use by the FSANZ. But many parents and healthy eaters want food without them, which until now has been hard to find.

Consumer choice is a major factor when decisions are made about what to put in food, so giving this product your vote means it will sell well, and competing manufacturers may decide to take artificial substances out of their food too.

• The six artificial colours are Tartrazine (102), Quinoline Yellow (104), Sunset Yellow (110), Carmoisine (122), Ponceau 4R (124) and Allura Red (129).


• No artificial flavours or colours across the entire Select brand.
• High in sugar at 63 per cent so a "treat" food.
• High in energy at 451kg or 108 calories per biscuit.
• Clear labelling about use of palm oil and glycerine sourced from beef.

Do you have a food product you would like to feature?
Email wendylwantstoknow@gmail.com with suggestions. Unfortunately, Wendyl cannot correspond with readers.

Read Wendyl's columns on other food products.

- NZ Herald

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