Wendyl Wants to Know: Great for school lunches - sometimes

By Wendyl Nissen

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

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Roll Ups Berry Blast Flavour
90g or 5 x 15g for $3.70

As the kids head back to school the pressure is on to create a lunchbox full of foods they will enjoy yet still provide some energy and nutrition to get them through the day. A popular lunchbox addition since the 80s has been Roll-Ups which taste a lot like lollies but 10 per cent healthier. Children are encouraged to play with the product by unrolling and pulling it off the wax paper in various shapes. A few years ago patterns were printed on them also. The marketing for this product is very clever because they are made from fruit, claims to have 25 to 50 per cent less sugar compared with other fruit bars and proudly states on the front of the package that it "meets guidelines for schools". This is great, until the smaller type on the back reveals that under the Food and Beverage Classifications System which sets out guidelines for schools on healthy eating it gets a "sometimes" rating. There are three ratings: "everyday" which means it's great to eat every day, "sometimes" which means they should be restricted and should not dominate "the choices available", and "occasional" which should only be offered once a term. So it's not exactly a thumbs up for daily lunchbox inclusion.

Concentrate fruit paste (32 per cent)(apple juice concentrate 61 per cent, apple puree concentrate 30 per cent)

Despite the packaging having wonderful pictures of a strawberry, raspberry and a blackberry and the words "Berry Blast Flavour" this product is made from apples. I suspect that the berry flavour and colour will be added in further down this list. Apple juice and puree concentrate is apple juice and puree which has had the starch and pectin removed and it is then pasteurised.

MaltodextrinsThis is a sugar which is taken from wheat rather than corn or sugarcane.

PolydextroseThis is an ingredient created out of dextrose (glucose), sorbitol, a low calorie carbohydrate and citric acid to add to processed foods usually to add fibre. The fibre listing on the nutrition panel is 3.5g per serving which is quite good, however this fibre is not the same as the fibre we might get from a raw apple. It is called a functional fibre or is sometimes referred to as "faux fibre" because no one knows if it has the same health benefits as fibre found in real foods such as bran, oats or fruit. Polydextrose can also be added to foods as a stabiliser and thickener.

Corn starchThis is like cornflour and will be in here to thicken the product.

Vegetable fibreThis will be fibre from vegetables which are unnamed which will also contribute to the high fibre content of this food.

Canola oilThis oil is made from rapeseed which comes from the rape plant which is in the same family as cabbage, radishes, watercress, and turnips. It is low in saturated fats and high in monosaturated fats which are good for us. It is also a very cheap oil to obtain and is commonly used in processed foods.

Emulsifier (471)This is mono and triglycerides which are used in processed foods to stop the oil separating out of the water. They can be naturally derived or made synthetically.

Natural colours (163,153,162)Nice to see some natural colours in here in the form of 163 which is grape or blackcurrant skin extract and 162 which is from beetroots. But 153 which is Brown HT might be natural but it is made from coal tar. It is used in chocolate foods to give a brown colour but is not approved in the United States and is banned in Denmark, Belgium, France and Germany because of health concerns especially in children.

Food acids (citric acid, sodium citrate)Citric acid and sodium citrate which is a salt of citric acid are used in processed foods as preservatives but also to flavour foods and there is a slight sour taste to this product which may be due to these acids.

FlavourWhat a shame we don't know what flavouring was used. Obviously it isn't a natural flavouring or the label would clearly state this so we have to assume it is artificial and is a group of chemicals designed to simulate the taste of berries.

Humectant (420)Sorbitol is a natural carbohydrate alcohol found in many berries and fruits but is commercially produced from glucose. It is used here as a humectant which means it helps the product retain water. It is also a sweetener and is commonly used in chewing gum. Sorbitol can cause bloating and flatulence as it is only partly absorbed by our bodies with the remainder fermenting in the large bowel. In some people it acts as a laxative and aggravates irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.

Vegetable gums (440,410,415)The first number 440 means pectin, which you may remember was taken out of the apple juice to make apple juice concentrate for this product. The next number 410 is locust bean gum and 415 is xanthan gum. These are all natural vegetable gums used in here most likely 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.

Citrus extractThis will be in here for flavour, possibly the sour flavour and could have been taken from any citrus fruit.

Antioxidant (ascorbic acid)This is the substance found in lemon juice which prevents apples from browning over when you cut them. It is put in foods such as this as an antioxidant preservative.

My recommendationsWhat's wrong with an apple? As we can see this product is not made out of berries, it is entirely apple. It has some added fibre to bring it up to 3.5g a serving, but an apple has about 4g and that fibre is undoubtedly natural and comes with all the benefits fibre gives us such as helping our digestion and evening out blood sugar levels. It takes 19 ingredients to colour, flavour and texture this long string of what is essentially fruit paste, and there's only one ingredient in a crisp, fresh apple. The secret is finding an apple which your child will enjoy eating as they can often be about as edible as mush, but the good news is that apples are coming into season. Make sure you are buying freshly picked beauties rather than cold stored ones from last season. If you're not sure just ask before you buy. If you want to buy these for your kid as a treat they are better than confectionary but limit them to once or twice a week. There are very easy recipes on the internet for fruit paste.

Highlights

* Berry Blast Flavour it may be but there are no berries in it.

* Uses a colour banned in the US and other countries.

* Added fibre gives it 3.5g per serve, a raw apple has 4g.

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

- NZ Herald

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