Wendyl Wants To Know
Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.

Wendyl Nissen: Wontons afloat in a sea of additives

Magic Pandas Wonton Soup. Photo / Supplied
Magic Pandas Wonton Soup. Photo / Supplied

I used to eat a lot of these soups for lunch in the 90s when I was a busy magazine editor.

So when I saw them in the freezer at Pak'n'Save I had an immediate sentimental moment and bought one to relive those hectic times. Then I looked at the ingredients label.

Magic Pandas Wonton Soup $5.49 for 400g.

• Ingredients (greatest quantity first):

Chicken broth (66%)
Chicken broth is basically chicken stock.

Wheat flour
This will be used in the wonton pastry.

Pork (10%)
This is in the filling of the wontons but there are also two small pieces of what looks like pork in the soup.

Water

Cabbage
Couldn't see any cabbage in the soup so this must be in the wonton filling.

Sugar
Not high at 4.1g per 400g.

Salt
Very high in salt 1110mg of sodium per 400g serving - a day's worth of sodium for people on a low salt diet.

Chicken stock [contains: flavour (621, 635), thickener (1422), vegetable gum (415), colour (100)]

This is disappointing. A ready-made stock such as Campbell's has all-natural ingredients. Instead this stock has MSG (621) which is salt of glutamic acid. The NZ Food Standards Authority accepts some people who eat MSG may experience symptoms such as burning sensations, numbness, chest pain, headache, nausea and asthma but it says it is okay to have in food as long as it is labelled.

The other flavour enhancer is Disodium 5'-ribonucleotide (635), a chemical that may cause itchy rash and welts in sensitive people. There is also acetylated distarch adipate (1422), a treated starch, xanthan gum (415) which is fermented glucose and sucrose, and curcumin (100, a natural colour).

Potato starch
Like cornflour except sourced from potato. It will be in here as a thickener.

Soya bean oil
This is common oil in Asian cooking, extracted from soya beans

Spring Onion

Pepper

Sesame oil
This provides a lot of flavour for very little oil and is common in Asian soups and cooking.

Flavour enhancer (621)
This is MSG again (see above).

Dark soya sauce
This sauce is often aged for a longer period of time than light soy sauce and can have molasses or caramel and a bit of cornstarch added.

Tomato sauce [contains preservative (211) food acid (260) colours (124,122,110,150c)]
The preservative in the tomato sauce is sodium benzoate (211), the food acid is acetic acid (260) which is vinegar and the four colours are ponceau 4 R (124), carmoisine (122) and sunset yellow (110) which are three artificial colours voluntarily phased out in the UK and which must carry a warning label in the EU. Caramel III (150c) is made by heating sugars with ammonia.

Hoisin sauce [contains colours (150a, 129), acidity regulator (260)] The colours are caramel I (150a) which is made my heating sugar and allura red (129) which was voluntarily phased out in the UK and must carry a warning label in the EU.

Light soya sauce [contains preservative 202)]
This is normal soya sauce we would use at home. It has the preservative potassium sorbate (202) in it.

Garlic

Five spice

Colour (122,124,102,110)
And here are more colours! Three are the same as used in the tomato sauce (above) and the other one is tartrazine (102) which is also voluntarily banned in the UK and must carry a warning label in the UK.

My recommendations:

I'm shocked that a simple chicken broth with wontons and few bits of pork floating in it could contain eight colours, of which five have been voluntarily phased out in the UK due to concerns they cause hyperactivity in children, especially when combined with the preservative sodium benzoate, which is also in the product.

There is MSG which many people avoid, and quite a few other additives. My recommendation would be to buy a simple ready made chicken stock - Campbell's makes one with just water, chicken, carrots, celery, cabbage, onions, sage extract, parsley, salt, sugar and yeast extract. Then look for frozen dumplings in the freezer.

Leanne's Kitchen makes dumplings without MSG, colours or preservatives.

Heat the stock, throw in dumplings, a dash of sesame oil, crushed garlic and soy sauce, cookand then maybe add a sprinkling of chopped spring onions and you have yourself a very fine wonton soup.

Highlights:
• Uses eight colours, five which have been voluntarily banned in the UK.
• Uses MSG.
• High in salt at 1110mg sodium per 400g serve.

- NZ Herald

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