Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents
Arnott's Shapes Pizza - $2.99 for 200g
These savoury crackers have been part of our household for many years as welcome additions to lunchboxes and after-school snacks. According to the Arnott's website, Shapes have been around since the 1950s and Australians eat over 53 million packs each year.
The favourite flavours are BBQ, Pizza and Chicken Crimpy. In our house, Pizza wins every time.
Believe it or not, I haven't looked closely at the ingredients list until now because the packaging tells me that there are no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives, so Shapes have been low on my list of foods to restrict. But they are very popular with kids, so it's worth having a closer look to see what is in them.
Flour you use in your baking at home.
These are "baked not fried", so the oil here will be used to coat the biscuits before they are baked, rather than provide a frying medium.
Not sure what the oil is.
This is simply tomato puree reduced to a powder and will be part of the flavouring sprinkled on top of the biscuits.
Glucose (from wheat)
This is a simple sugar taken from wheat.
Cheese (contains milk)
They are a bit naughty not mentioning all the ingredients that go into cheese, such as milk, culture, salt and enzymes.
These are the proteins and carbohydrates found in milk after dehydration.
This is baking yeast which you would use at home to make bread rise.
Raising agents (E341, E500)
The first raising agent is calcium phosphate (341), which is in here to prevent clumping in the powder, and the second is baking soda (500).
This is garlic which has been dried and crushed into a powder, and will join the tomato paste and onion powder (below) as the flavouring.
Colours (paprika extract, turmeric)
Lovely to see natural colours being used here. These will give the biscuits the red colour (paprika) and yellow colour (turmeric) sprinkled on top.
Vegetable protein extract (from soybean, wheat)
This is hydrolysed vegetable protein made from soybeans and wheat, which is commonly used as a filler in commercially produced foods.
Emulsifiers (E322 (from soy))
This is lecithin, a natural and very common emulsifier.
Food Acids (E260, E330)
The first food acid is acetic acid, glacial, which is commonly found in vinegar. Glacial means it is water-free acetic acid. The second food acid is citric acid, which is found in citrus and some other fruits.
My disappointment in seeing flavour added here is countered by the fact that the label clearly states "no artificial flavours", so we can assume this flavour is either natural or nature-identical, which means it is sourced from natural products and is chemically similar to the real thing.
These are perfectly okay for your kids to eat, as there seem to be no artificial additives to worry about.
Nutritionally, they meet the criteria for packaged snack foods as set out by the Healthy Kids Association, which is a not-for-profit, non-government, health promotion organisation based in Australia. Its guidelines advise less than or around 600 kilojoules per serve, these have 535kj per 25g serve; less than 2g saturated fat, these have 2.7g; and about 1g of fibre per serve, these have 0.8g. So I have no suggestions for alternatives.
A note on the codes used on this label. The numbers all have the letter "E" placed in front of them. This is current practice for overseas markets like the United States and Britain. In New Zealand, we leave off the "E" and just list the numbers.
* No artificial flavours, colours or preservatives.
* Reasonably low in saturated fat.
Nice to see natural flavours and colours used.
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