Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents
You would be hard pressed to attend a party in this country without being presented with a plate of these delicious, hot morsels.
Sausage rolls are a mainstay of our social functions and many of us grab these out of the freezer, slice them up and cook them in moments. Served with tomato sauce, it doesn't get much better.
They are even endorsed by Alison Holst, who says on the label, "This is the one I recommend."
You would think there wouldn't be much to them - pastry and some sausage put together.
But a look at this label had me very worried. It seemed to go on forever, but on closer inspection I found it was a matter of a label that couldn't make up its mind.
Because of space, I have summarised groups of ingredients to help you decode the label.
New Way Sausage Rolls
$4.99 for 800g pack
Pastry fat blend [animal fat, vegetable oil, contains palm nut products].
Emulsifier (471, 322) [from soybeans]
The first emulsifier (471) is mono and diglycerides of fatty acids and the second (322) is lecithin, a natural and common emulsifier in processed food.
Acidity regulator (500)
This is baking soda.
Antioxidant (306) [from soybeans]
This is tocopherol concentrate, which is Vitamin E and added in here probably to preserve the fat.
This is citric acid.
This is beta-carotene, an orange-yellow colouring which can come from algae or be made synthetically.
Colour (160b, 100)
This is annatto extract, a natural dye made from the seed coating of the tropical annatto tree. Studies have found it can cause allergic reactions, headaches and irritability. People with food intolerance should avoid this colouring, but the New Zealand Food Standards Authority allows it.
The second colour is in turmeric.
35 per cent of filling, or 17 per cent of product.
[wheat flour, water, yeast, iodised salt, vegetable oil, sugar, vegetable fibre, soy flour, gluten, acidity regulator (341, 263), emulsifier (481,472e, 471)]
In summary: 341 is calcium phosphate, a raising agent; 263 is calcium acetate, which is derived from lime and is here to maintain the correct pH of the bread. The three emulsifiers are sodium lactylate, diacetytartaric of mono and diglycerides of fatty acids, and mono and diglycerides of fatty acids - all in here as emulsifiers to keep oil mixed with water. And 472e can be used in baked goods to improve volume.
[wheat flour, water, yeast, gluten, iodised salt, vegetable oils, soybean flour, emulsifier (471, 472e, 481), acidity regulator (263)]
In summary: These emulsifiers are the same as above but listed in a different order, which means they are in this mix in different quantities. The acidity regulator is calcium acetate, as above.
[wholemeal wheat flour, wheat flour, water, yeast, iodised salt, gluten, purple wheat flour, vegetable oil, kibbled purple wheat, roasted barley malt flour, acidity regulator (263), soy flour, emulsifier (481)]
In summary: Purple wheat is a coloured wheat used in baking to give the bread a better colour. The bread in these breadcrumbs uses the same acidity regulator and only one of the emulsifiers and I think it seems a better choice over the other two, with fewer additives and more grains.
Textured soybean protein
This is textured soy protein taken from soybeans which is commonly used in processed foods as a meat extender. It will be here as a filler.
Beef bouillon seasoning*
The * refers to a mention later in the label that "Bouillons also contain HVP & other foods".
HVP is hydrolysed vegetable protein, created when maize and soy are boiled in hydrochloric acid and then broken down with sodium hydroxide to release the protein. It is used in foods as a flavour enhancer.
[flavour enhancer (621, 627, 631), flavour, colour (150), acid (330)]
In summary, the beef bouillon seasoning seems to have no beef, but HVP, flavour enhancers MSG, sodium inosinate and sodium guanylate.
MSG is avoided by healthy eaters. The NZ Food Standards Authority accepts some people may experience symptoms such as burning sensations, numbness, chest pain, headache, nausea and asthma but it says it's okay for food as long as it's labelled, even behind three numbers like 621. They advise people who have symptoms to avoid it where possible.
The sodium inosinate is prepared from meat or fish and is used in conjunction with MSG to provide an umami or meaty taste.
The disodium guanylate is commercially prepared from yeast extract or sardines and enhances flavours, reducing the amount of salt needed. Asthmatics and gout sufferers should avoid this product.
The colour used is caramel (150). This is plain caramel which does not have any sulphites or ammonium in it as other caramel colours do.
The acid is citric acid.
Onion bouillon seasoning *
Again the * refers to HVP.
[flavour enhancer (621), flavour]
This is MSG again (621) and an unspecified flavour.
I think it would be nice to know which out of the three choices of breadcrumbs listed on the label I am eating.
I'm not sure why the manufacturers cannot use just one breadcrumb.
If it were a product subject to seasonal availability you might be able to understand being given several ingredient options, but loaves of bread are easy to come by all year round.
Perhaps it's a financial consideration depending on which bread is cheaper at the time they are making the rolls.
I think this is a very cheeky interpretation of food labelling standards and as a fan of these sausage rolls I would much rather have the third breadcrumb option, which I think is a lot healthier.
I doubt whether anyone trying to read this in a supermarket would make it to the end of this label with any understanding whatsoever of what they are eating.
It would be better if some effort was made to clarify this label and make it easier for people to work out what they are feeding themselves and their kids.
* Gives the consumer three possible breadcrumb mixtures which could be in the product.
* Meat is 35 per cent of filling, 17 per cent of total product.
* Contains MSG.
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