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: Artificial colours, salt, ruin healthy meal

By Wendyl Nissen

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Nishin Seasoned Seaweed Salad, $7.55 for 500g.
Nishin Seasoned Seaweed Salad, $7.55 for 500g.

I always go for this salad as a healthy side when ordering sushi. Everyone knows seaweed is good for you and this tastes great with sesame and chilli flavours. You can buy it ready-made and frozen in some supermarket freezers which is where I found this.

Ingredients

Seaweed (82.30%):The type of seaweed isn't included in the ingredients list but it is most likely to be wakame seaweed, which is commonly used for seaweed salad. Seaweed is very nutritious with a variety of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, it is low calorie and many people believe it is a superfood which boosts the immune system, decreases blood sugar and cholesterol and decreased the symptoms of arthritis.

Jew's ear (5%):This is an edible fungus otherwise known as wood ear because it grows on wood.

Water: (2.5%)

Sesame oil (2.5%): This will be in here for flavouring.

Agar (2%): This is a gel obtained from algae.

Sesame (2%): These are seeds added to the salad.

Sugar (1%: )Not a lot of sugar at 3g per 85g serving.

Chilli (.8%): This will be in here for flavour.

Vinegar (.575%): This could be in here as a natural preservative but will also give the salad a sour flavour.

Soy sauce (.55403% ): Not sure what the ingredients are to make the soy sauce but as it is such a small amount they are not required to be listed on the label.

Sorbitol (.50%): This is a natural carbohydrate alcohol found in many berries and fruits but is commercially produced from glucose. It will be in here as a humectant to keep the salad moist. Salt (.20%)This is a high-sodium product. Per 85g serving you will get 1002mg sodium which is about half your day's recommended intake. Adults should consume between 920 and 2300mg of salt per day.

Flavour enhancer [E621] (.07%): This is monosodium glutamate or MSG which healthy eaters avoid. The NZ Food Standards Authority accepts that some people who consume MSG may experience symptoms such as burning sensations, numbness, chest pain, headache, nausea and asthma but it says that it is okay to have in food as long as it is labelled.

Lemon acid (.00009%): I think this is most likely to be citric acid which can be in food products for flavouring but also as a preservative.

Yellow No 4 (.0008%): This colour is not included in the list of approved food colours for use in New Zealand. The only yellows approved in this country to be added to food are known as yellow No 5 (tartrazine) yellow No 6 (sunset yellow), yellow No 10 (quinolone) or the natural colours riboflavin (101) and saffron (164). My research tells me that yellow numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 were delisted in the United States as part of the Colour Additive Amendments of 1960 which means they are banned from use in food. In 1950, children became ill from certain colourings used in candy and popcorn. This led to some orange and red colours being delisted. Then studies were carried out on other colours and that led to the delisting of the four yellows in 1960. The amount of colour used is tiny but the fact remains it is not an approved food additive for this country.

Blue No 1 (.00008%): This is known here as brilliant blue (133) not as blue No 1. It is an artificial flavour which has been the topic of many studies, most recently by the European Food Safety Authority and is allowed in foods.

My recommendations

This product is made in China and distributed locally by Nishin. On Monday I called the manager Steven Zhang, who said he did not know if the ingredient listing was correct and would need to talk to the manufacturer in China to check that the ingredient is indeed Yellow No 4. I have not heard back from him.

If the yellow No 4 is, in fact yellow No 4 and not a mistake on the labelling then this product should not be sold in New Zealand. Our Food Standards do not include this on its list of approved colours and it was banned in the US in 1960. This salad is made in China and packed for a local distributor.

What seems like a very healthy salad of seaweed and fungus is ruined by the addition of artificial colours which must be in here to make a green seaweed look greener, a lot of salt and MSG. I'd give this a miss and simply make an Asian salad out of microgreens or sprouts with the addition of half a teaspoon of sesame oil and the juice of a lemon, some chopped chilli and a sprinkle of soy sauce.

- NZ Herald

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