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: Bright colours come at a cost but good fairies have a choice

Dollar Sweets Magic 100's &1000's, 350g for $5.99.

When I told my family I was going to analyse these 100's and 1000's they got very grumpy with me. They could tell I wasn't very happy with the ingredients as soon as I looked at the label but that didn't matter.

"You're going to ruin so many children's birthday parties," said one. "Do you always have to be such a handbrake?" said another.

And then someone else said: "It's just sad."

They were referring to the fact that at every child's birthday party fairy bread and brightly coloured sprinkles on cakes and ice-cream are a main feature. And that if I told everyone that they couldn't use these 100's and 1000's I would essentially be ruining a great birthday tradition.

But as my other columns have shown we are using a range of artificial colours in New Zealand which have been banned in countries like the United States where it is jolly hard to get any food additive banned.

And if you read to the end of the column, you'll find all is not lost when it comes to fairy bread.

Sugar

Tapioca starch
This is a starch taken from the cassava root. It is sold in our supermarkets as white tapioca pearls which turn translucent when cooked.

Glazing agent (903)
This is carnauba wax, taken from the leaves of the carnauba palm tree. They grow prolifically in Brazil so no threat to this palm becoming extinct.

Colour
(102,110,122,123,124,133) Tartrazine (102) is an artificial yellow dye which has been banned in Norway and the United Kingdom due to links to hyperactivity in children. Our Food Standards Authority (FSANZ) says that in Australia (where this product is made) food manufacturers use lower levels than in the UK study, therefore it allows the colouring in our foods.

Sunset Yellow FCF (110) is banned in Norway and Finland. After the same study mentioned for tartrazine the United Kingdom requested a voluntary withdrawal of this colouring in all its foods and it is thought that most foods manufactured in the UK do not use this colouring any more.

Carmoisine (122) is a red synthetic coal tar dye which has been banned in Canada, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United States. It can cause allergic reactions.

Amaranth (123) is a dark red or purple dye which is a suspected carcinogen banned in the US in 1976 as well as in Russia, Norway and Austria. It is also restricted in France and Italy. The ban on amaranth in the United States and several other countries was the result of numerous studies citing links to cancer in laboratory animals as well as birth defects, stillbirths, sterility and early foetal death. It is not recommended for consumption by children and is considered very dangerous as it increases hyperactivity in affected children.

Ponceau 4R (124), a red synthetic colour which has been banned in the US, Norway and Finland. It can cause allergic reactions and there are concerns that it might be carcinogenic (cancer causing).

Brilliant blue (133) is another synthetic coal tar dye which was banned in Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and Norway because of concerns it is a carcinogen but that ban has since been lifted. However it is now banned in Argentina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, Mauritius, Morocco, Poland, Portugal, Trinidad and Turkey.

My recommendations: All six of these artificial colours are banned in other countries. I think for the sake of some brightly coloured sprinkles on a bit of fairy bread it is a great idea to avoid using these. But you won't have to look too far for an alternative. Dollar Sweets also makes the same product at no extra cost using natural colours which you will find near this one. The colours are slightly different. You won't get any bright blues, greens or reds, but you will get plenty of colour in more pastel tones which I think is a great swap. The colours used in the natural version are turmeric (100), cochineal (120), chlorophyll-copper (141) and anthocyanins [grape skin or blackcurrant extract] (163). Use these ones for your fairy bread, sending a message to Dollar Sweets that you prefer natural colours for your kids.

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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