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: Sweet treat gets a big tick for natural colouring

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Oki-Doki DiscoBits Bars
$3.49 for six 27g bars

I first heard about these bars when a friend tweeted that he found the name a bit odd for what is essentially a chocolate and caramel biscuit/bar. The very bright packaging had my artificial colour radar immediately on red alert.

After a quick look at the ingredients panel I couldn't recognise any of the usual nasties so they came home with me. But not before my three-year-old granddaughter spotted them at the very bottom of the bag and asked very politely if she could have one.

Bright packaging seems to have the ability to grab the attention of small children and signal their brain to eat whatever is inside it. I told her she'd have to wait until I had taken a closer look and now that I have, she can have one on her next visit.

I can't tell you where these are made because there is no country of origin on the labelling. But I suspect they are made overseas because the company listed on the packaging is an importer and distributor.

On their website they have suppliers listed in Turkey, Poland and Chile. The company says they created the name Oki-Doki from the popular Kiwi saying.

Ingredients ( in order of greatest quantity)

Wheat flour
This is flour you would use in baking and as it is the first ingredient this indicates that the biscuits are mostly made up of flour.

There is a lot of sugar in these - 38 per cent or 10.3g per 27g serving. The World Health Organisation recommends less than 40g sugar a day so one of these bars takes you towards that limit.

Glucose-fructose syrup
This is another form of sugar but it is in a liquid form.

Vegetable oil
Unsure what oil is in here but along with the cocoa mass it will be contributing to the fat in these biscuits which is 5.2g per 27g serve.

Cocoa mass
This is a paste which is produced when you grind cocoa beans up. If you melt it into a liquor and then cool it you would have bitter chocolate.

Whole milk powders
This is dehydrated whole fat milk.

Cocoa butter
This is the pale yellow vegetable fat which is taken from the cocoa bean. The fact that this is in here means the chocolate will taste better than other chocolates which replace the butter with palm oil or similar.

Whey powder
This is the byproduct of making cheese and it is very high in protein, which is why it is popular with body builders. The whey would have been dehydrated into a powder.

Humectants (glycerol)
A humectant is something which keeps a food moist and glycerine or glycerol in this case is a very common additive in processed foods to do this job. Glycerine is a by-product of soap-making and biodiesel production and in biodiesel production vegetable oils or animal fats are reacted with an alcohol to produce fuel and glycerol. So some vegetarians have concerns about consuming glycerine in their food.

Emulsifiers (soya lecithin, gum Arabic, 476,336)
Emulsifiers have all sorts of jobs to do in processed foods such as stopping fat and oil from separating but also maintaining freshness and quality. Soya lecithin is a natural product taken from soya beans. Gum Arabic comes from the sap of the Acacia tree. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2008 found it also has prebiotic properties which promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Polyglycerol polyricinoleate (476) is made from castor beans which is a common ingredient in chocolate because it reduces the thickness of the product. Potassium tartrate (336) is naturally occurring and is a common acidifier.

Raising agents (500, 503)
These are both common raising agents: baking soda (500) and ammonium bicarbonate (503)

Invert sugar
This is sugar which has been treated to split into glucose and fructose (mentioned in the ingredients list above) which is sweeter than sugar and when used in processed foods remains more moist and less prone to crystallisation.

SaltMalt Extract
This is a sweet, treacle-like substance which used to be given to children as a tonic as it has beneficial minerals and vitamins.

Glazing agents (beeswax, carnauba wax)
These natural waxes will be in the product to make it look shiny.

We have to assume this is artificial flavouring as there is no reference to natural flavouring on the packet.

Colouring (100,172,171,162,141)
And now we are in for a nice surprise. When a product glows this much with bright, enticing colours for children I have learned to expect the worst, which is artificial colours banned for use in other countries.

But I'm very impressed that the colours used in here are natural and don't have any warning signs hanging over them.

Turmeric (100) is a natural dye take from the spice turmeric which is ground up from a bright yellow root, similar to ginger. Iron oxide (172) has a red/brown colour and is commonly used in pet food. Titanium dioxide (171) is a white pigment and Beet Red (162) is a red colour obtained from beetroot. Chlorophyll-copper complex (141) is a green colour and is present in plants and algae. It doesn't come from copper as you may presume but copper can be released when this substance is heated, but not at toxic levels.

Thickener (carrageenan)
This is a gel extracted from seaweed.

My recommendations:
As treats go this is a very sweet and bright offering.

But once you get past the high sugar content it is a relief to see that there are none of the artificial colours I have been discovering in other products aimed at children which have been banned in other countries. So I am impressed that the producers have made that effort.

It's also good to see cocoa butter and cocoa mass in here which means the chocolate is of reasonably good quality. These are treat foods so one occasionally would be a good idea but not one every day in the lunch box.

*Despite it's disco fever packaging, no artificial colours to worry about.
*Uses cocoa butter which indicates good quality chocolate.
*Very high in sugar.

Do you have a food product you would like to feature in Wendyl Wants to Know? Email Wendyl at wendylwants toknow@gmail.com with your suggestions. Unfortunately, Wendyl cannot correspond directly with readers.

- NZ Herald

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