The flavour and colours are natural but less than a fifth of these pies is meat.

We all love a good pie and buying a six-pack at the supermarket seems like a good idea to feed a family for lunch or dinner.

But the problem with pies is always the age-old question of what is actually inside them.

Pam's Mince and Cheese Pies. $6.49 for six pies at 170g each.

Ingredients (in order of greatest quantity first):

Water

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This isn't a great start, having water as the main ingredient in a mince pie.

Wheat flour
This tells us that there is more flour in here than meat.

Minced meat (17%) (beef, mutton)
This is very surprising. Most people eating a meat pie would assume it is mostly meat.

But in these pies it is not.

It is only 17 per cent, which is not even a fifth of the pie.

And the meat is beef but also mutton which is cheaper than beef and will be used to fill out the mince.

Animal and vegetable fats/oils (beef, palm)
This tells us that there is beef fat and palm oil in here.

Cheese (milk) (5%)
Cheese actually has more ingredients than just milk but at a very low reading of just 5 per cent I assume the producers are not required to give all the ingredients.

Salt
This is a high salt product at 645mg of sodium per 170g serve.

Emulsifiers (322 (from soy), 331,451,471)
The first emulsifier is lecithin which is a natural emulsifier, then we have sodium citrate (331) which is a salt of citric acid, diphosphate (451) which is a salt of phosphoric acid and finally mono and diglycerides of fatty acids (471), produced mainly from hydrogenated soya bean oil.

Thickener (1422)
This is acetylated distarch adipate, which is a treated starch.

Onion
Flavours [lactose, flavour enhancers (621,635), soy, wheat, barley, yeast extract]
A lot of flavours in here but no artificial flavours, which is good.

The flavour enhancers are not so great with MSG or monosodium glutamate (621) which is a salt of glutamic acid.

It is accepted by the NZ Food Standards Authority 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.

The other flavour enhancer is disodium5'ribonucleotide (635) which is a chemical compound that may cause an itchy rash and welts in sensitive people. Asthmatics, gout sufferers, infants and children should avoid it.

Colour (100,150c, 160a)
These colours are curcumin or turmeric (100) a natural orange colour, caramel III (150c) which is made by heating sugar with ammonia to make a brown colour and carotene (160a) which is a natural colour.

Acidity regulators (263,270,330)
These are calcium acetate (263), lactic acid (270), which occurs naturally in sour milk and citric acid (330), which occurs naturally in citrus fruit.

Stabilisers (415,466)
These are xanthan gum (415) which is fermented glucose and sucrose and sodium
carboxy methylcellulose (466) which is extracted from green plants and algae.

Antioxidant (320)
This is butulated hydroxyanisole or BHA.

A US National Institutes of Health report says that BHA is "reasonably
anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals."

However, it is thought that the low intake of BHA shows no increased risk of cancer in humans and at the end of this ingredients list there is a very small amount in these pies.

My recommendations:

On the one hand there are natural colours and natural flavours in here so that is a plus.

But there is also MSG and BHA which are both best avoided by some people and there is only 17% meat, some of which is mutton.

These tasted quite strongly of mutton, in my opinion, but the dogs loved them.

Highlights:

• Only 17% meat - some of which is mutton.
• Uses natural colours and flavours
• Uses MSG and BHA "a reasonably anticipated human carcinogen".