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: Mum wouldn't recognise this roast lamb and mint

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'There is nothing about it which resembles lamb as we know and love it,' writes Wendyl. Photo / Supplied
'There is nothing about it which resembles lamb as we know and love it,' writes Wendyl. Photo / Supplied

Kiwi Shaved Roast Lamb and Mint
90g for $3.67

This very attractive packet appeared in my supermarket recently and, as a Kiwi, I was immediately drawn to the roast-lamb-and-mint name. We love a good bit of roast lamb with mint sauce, made from fresh mint out of the garden mixed with sugar and malt vinegar. But this isn't really going to give you the same iconic flavour because it is a processed meat and, as we've found out in the past, that can be very different to real meat.

Lamb (65 per cent)
We know that 65 per cent of this meat product contains lamb and that it is 100 per cent New Zealand-farmed, which is great. What we're not sure about is what makes up the other 35 per cent. The label at the bottom of the list - "Processed Meat" - gives us a pretty good idea. This means that the rest of the meat in here is most likely to be meat trimmings, which is what is left over when main cuts of meat are boned and trimmed.

And that includes all external parts of the animal, such as skin and ears, but internal parts such as liver and heart are not used. If they were, they would have to be clearly labelled as offal.

Water

Potato starch
When you crush raw potato, a milky substance comes out of it, which is starch. This is dried and the starch is used in foods like this, probably as a thickener.

Cider vinegar
It's nice to see this in here. More and more people are using cider vinegar in their processed food because it makes a great preservative. Cider vinegar has a big following, as it is regarded as a great tonic.

Sugar
This will be ordinary cane sugar.

Food acid (325)
This is sodium lactate, which is the sodium salts of lactic acid, in here to control the pH levels. If they aren't controlled, undesirable bacteria can develop.

Salt
This is a very salty-tasting product. For every 22.5g serve (a quarter of the pack), you will get 169mg of sodium, which equates to nearly 0.5g of salt.

Soy protein
This is textured soy protein taken from soybeans, which is commonly used in processed foods as a meat extender. It will be in here to make up for the lack of meat.

Thickeners (407,1442)
The number 407 stands for carrageenan, which is a gel extracted from seaweed. But as natural as that sounds, there are concerns from healthy eaters that it is an intestinal irritant, and the joint Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Food Additives advise it be kept out of infant formulas. The other ingredient is hydroxypropyl distarch phosphate, which is basically a starch that has been treated to be more stable and work as a thickener.

Stabilisers (450, 451)
The first ingredient is potassium pyrophosphate and the second is sodium triphosphate. Both are mineral salts used in foods as a preservative and to help keep the meat tender and moist.

Yeast extract
Similar to Marmite or Vegemite.

Antioxidant (316)
This is sodium erythorbate which, when used as an antioxidant, is structurally related to Vitamin C. It helps improve flavour stability and is used instead of sulphites for processed meat products, as it is considered safer and removes carcinogenic nitrosamines.Mint flavourI wish the word "natural" appeared here, because its absence means that the minty flavour in the meat is made by a bunch of chemicals which make our tongues think we are tasting good old mint sauce. This flavour is also used in minted peas, so in future just buy plain peas and throw in a few mint leaves from the garden when cooking.

Processed meat, contains soy
This means there are meat trimmings in here, as explained under the ingredient "lamb".

My recommendations
If you take this product out and look at it closely, there is nothing about it which resembles lamb as we know and love it. It is thin slices of something as round as a dog sausage and it doesn't look or taste at all appetising. In fact, it just tastes like something very salty and vaguely minty. Yet I understand the appeal of grabbing one of these packs off the supermarket shelf and throwing it into lunches for the kids. So why not roast some lamb at the weekend, slice it up, keep it in an airtight container in the fridge and use that instead if you really like lamb in your sandwiches. That way you are avoiding 14 added ingredients. If you don't have time, at least pick something without an artificial flavour added, or go to the deli counter and choose something which looks like it has actually been carved off a real slab of meat, not a congealed mass of meat trimmings.

Highlights
*
Not mint sauce, which we associate with roast lamb, but an artificial mint flavouring.

* Contains meat trimming, which can be skin and ears.

* Features cider vinegar, which is a natural preservative.

'Mother's Little Helper - Wendyl Nissen's old-fashioned guide to raising your baby chemical-free' is out on Monday. It gives 84 natural recipes for raising your baby the old-fashioned way by avoiding toxic chemicals in beauty products, processed food and cleaning products.

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

- NZ Herald

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