Wendyl Wants To Know

Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.

Wendyl wants to know: There's sweet-all fruit in sugary snack bars

11 comments
Dad's complaint over Health Foundation tick sparks closer look

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Tasti Fruitsies
Strawberry
Vanilla
$4.29 for 10 bars

I was alerted to these bars by a story I read in a newspaper about the fact that these bars have the Heart Foundation tick. A father had complained to the Commerce Commission because he found the tick misleading. These bars have 44 per cent sugar which the father didn't believe was healthy.

However the Heart Foundation sells the right to place its tick on food products like these if levels of sodium, kilojoules and fat meet certain criteria and the bars have to contain at least 1.5g of fibre per serving.

The amount of sugar is not considered because there is "no scientific evidence that sugar causes heart disease", foundation tick manager Deb Sue was quoted as saying. "Just because something's high in sugar doesn't automatically make it bad food."

Click here to read Wendyl's columns on other food products

Really? The last time I looked nutritionists and healthy food advocates were desperately trying to reduce the sugar intake in our diets because it leads to obesity and diabetes, two of the biggest health issues facing New Zealanders.

Ingredients (in order of greatest quantity first):

Cereals (28%) (Wheat flour, wheat fibre)

It says cereals but only wheat is listed. Some snack bars also use other cereals such as oats and spelt (hulled wheat).

Fruit (16%) (Apple puree concentrate, strawberry puree (3%), Blackcurrant juice concentrate)

Good to see some real fruit in here but the puree and concentrate will be high in sugar.

Invert sugar

This is sugar which has been treated to split into glucose and fructose, which is sweeter than sugar and when used in processed foods remains more moist and less prone to crystallisation.

Brown sugar

This is brown sugar as you would put on your porridge.

Canola oil

This is oil is commonly used in processed foods.

Sugar

Humectant (glycerol)

A humectant is a substance that helps retain water. So the glycerol is in here to keep the product moist.

Modified starch (1442)

This is hydroxyl-propyldistarch phosphate which is a treated starch which holds all the ingredients together in a processed bar like this.

Inulin

I call this "faux fibre" because it is added into processed food to provide more soluble fibre and therefore enable the manufacturer to claim it as a "source of fibre". This is a substance which naturally occurs in root vegetables, particularly chicory. Each of these 20g bars will give you 2.5g of fibre.

Polydextrose

This is another form of "faux fibre". It is an ingredient created out of dextrose (glucose), sorbitol, a low-calorie carbohydrate and citric acid to add to processed foods to add fibre. Of the 2.5g fibre in one of these bars, 0.5g is polydextrose. This sort of fibre is called a functional fibre because no one knows if it has the same health benefits as fibre found in real foods.

Egg powder

This is dried egg.

Raising agents (500,541,341)

These are sodium bicarbonate, sodium aluminium phosphate and calcium phosphate. All are regarded as quite safe and are in the product to make it rise when baked.

Emulsifiers (471,472)

The first ingredient is mono and di glycerides of fatty acids. However the second listing of 472 is misleading. Under the food code there are five different versions of this ingredient listed as 472a, 472b, 472c, 472d, 472e and 472f. They can be derived from tartaric, citric or lactic acids. So we know it is some form of acetic and fatty acid but not the source. Both ingredients are in here as emulsifiers to mix the canola oil with the water and keep it that way.

Vegetable Gums (locust bean, xanthan)

These are both natural vegetable gums used here as thickeners. Some people find too much locust bean gum can cause abdominal pain and diarrhoea but in this small quantity it shouldn't do any harm.

Flavour

This is confusing. On the packet it clearly states "no artificial flavours or colours" yet there is no mention of "natural flavour" here.

Normally a listing using just the word "flavour" means it is artificial. I can't tell you from this listing if it is or not.

Gelling agent (pectin)

Pectin is used in jams to make them set. This will be keep the fruit pulp thick.

Preservatives (282,202,263)

The first ingredient is calcium propionate which is a mould inhibitor.

The second ingredient is potassium sorbate, which is the potassium salt of sorbic acid and inhibits moulds and yeasts, and the third is calcium acetate, which is derived from lime, which maintains pH levels.

Firming agent (calcium lactate)

This is a salt, often found in cheeses.

Salt

My recommendations

Like the father who complained to the Commerce Commission I believe there is too much sugar in here to make it a good choice for your child.

I would also like to see kids getting their fibre from natural sources such as wholegrains, fruits and veges, not from the "faux fibre" found in here.

Calling these bars "Fruitsies" also implies they are primarily made of fruit, but in reality fruit makes up only 16 per cent of this product.

If you're looking for a bar as a snack for your child go for something with the most natural ingredients you can find and not too much sugar.


Highlights

*Contains two "faux fibres" to bring up fibre levels.

*Very high in sugar at 44 per cent.

*Called "Fruitsies" but fruit makes up only 16% of this product.


Do you have a food product you would like to feature?

Email wendylwantstoknow@gmail.com with suggestions. Unfortunately, Wendyl cannot correspond with readers.

- NZ Herald

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