Wendyl Wants to Know: Just what's in those tasty little sausages?

Every week, Wendyl Nissentakes a readily available packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Watties Spaghetti with sausages
$3.25 for 420g

Most adults won't go near canned sausages, but for some reason kids just love them. Most parents have heated up a can of this product, dished it out for their children and secretly shuddered at the processed food wizardry which made those little bits of meat.

Spaghetti in tomato sauce we can handle because we grew up with it, but meat in a can, that's another story. According to the Watties website, New Zealanders eat the most canned spaghetti per capita in the world at 21 million cans a year, which is about five cans each.

And there is some good news. There are two serves of vegetables in every can, thanks to the tomato content of the sauce, and those scary sausages are mostly made out of New Zealand lamb and beef without a preservative or sulphite in sight. Let's see what else is in there.

Tomato sauce (47 per cent)
This means that in one 420g can of this product you will get 180g of tomatoes.

Which is why the makers can legitimately claim that there are "2 serves of veg in every can" which they base on the fact that one serve of vegetables is 80g or about half a cup, according to the New Zealand Food and Nutrition Guidelines. Who would have guessed?

Kids will often refuse a raw tomato but are happy to eat them when cooked up in a sauce like this. They are a very good source of Vitamins C and A, fibre and B group vitamins. They also provide some Vitamin E, folic acid, potassium and other trace elements. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant. Some people believe that antioxidants prevent cell damage which can lead to cancer, ageing and other diseases but there is no conclusive evidence that lycopene actually does this. However, there is a lot of evidence that eating tomatoes is very good for our health.

Sugar, Salt
[Cheese Flavour, Spices, Spice Extracts]

These are the ingredients which make up the tomato sauce. The sugar is a little concerning as each serve, remember that's half a can, has 10.3g or two teaspoons of sugar in it, according to the nutrition panel.

I really want to believe that the cheese flavour is natural, but I'm sure Watties would be keen to say so on the label. So I have to suspect it might be synthetic, which means it is made out of chemicals that taste like cheese.

Spaghetti (40 per cent)
(Water, Wheat Flour),
This is simple pasta, just like the stuff you cook at home.

Sausages (13 per cent)
[Lamb, Water, Beef, Wheat Flour, Seasoning (Contains Milk), Salt]

If you have tasted these tiny morsels which are just 2.5cm long and the thickness of a finger, they are remarkably dry with an interesting texture and not at all fatty.

According to the label they are made out of New Zealand lamb and beef (more lamb than beef, judging by its appearance at the beginning of the list) mixed with flour, some seasoning (which mysteriously contains milk so is perhaps a cheese flavour) and salt. This comes as some relief as most sausages are heavy on preservatives, which are not needed in these as they nestle in tomato sauce.

You can be assured that the meat in the can has been tested, as the label says "PH233 New Zealand Inspected" which the Watties consumer support team told me is an assurance that the meat has been checked and approved.

This product is low fat thanks to these rather simple sausages, of which there are at least six in each can, according to the label. The label says the product is 97 per cent fat free.

My recommendations
As a snack food this is a little high in sugar but otherwise ticks a few boxes by feeding your child some vegetables, some carbs and a bit of protein.

It is also a relatively simple food item with no added colours and other additives commonly seen in processed food such as emulsifiers, thickeners, acidity regulators or preservatives. Because this product is canned it is preserved and will last for two to three years. Adding some grated cheese on top will increase the protein for this snack.

There are some health concerns about the coating of cans, however, which contain Bisphenol A or BPA, especially when heated.

You can search the internet for information about this debate but briefly there are concerns that BPA leaches out of these resin-based coatings and can act like oestrogen in the body, causing illnesses such as cancer and infertility.

Watties states on their website that these linings have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration to have contact with food.

Some people prefer to avoid BPA and my advice would be to always heat this product in a saucepan, not in the can.

Highlights

* A surprising two serves of vegetables (tomatoes) in every can.

* Sausages contain no preservatives or sulphites.

* Free of emulsifiers, thickeners, acidity regulators and added preservatives.

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Email www.wendylsgreengoddess.co.nz with suggestions. Unfortunately Wendyl cannot correspond with readers.

- NZ Herald

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