Last time I looked at luncheon sausage it wasn't great. It had artificial flavourings, MSG, soy protein filler and was only 43 per cent meat.

However, the good old luncheon sausage is such a popular standby for busy parents to make yummy sandwiches teamed with tomato sauce. So as I was lurking in the deli meat aisle the other day this caught my eye and I thought it looked quite good.

Tegel Chicken Luncheon. $6.29 for 800g.

Ingredients (greatest quantity first):

Chicken (67 per cent)

This is great news because it means that most of this sausage is actually chicken, not fillers or additives.


Tegel tells us on the packet that the chicken used in this product is cage-free with no added hormones and raised in New Zealand.

However it turns out the term "cage-free" may be just a marketing term as John Corbett, the internal communications manager of the Poultry Industry Association of New Zealand tells me that "cage-free is a marketing term and does not correspond to any production reality about meat chicken farming in New Zealand. As I'm sure you are well aware, meat chickens in New Zealand are not raised in cages".

Well I wasn't aware of that actually, but now that he has pointed it out the chickens we see in those awful cages are there to produce eggs. So thank you John.

Rice flour
This will be in here as a thickener. The sausage is very smooth - there are no visible pieces of meat in it - as all luncheon sausage is.

Potato starch
As above. The inclusion of potato and rice flour instead of wheat flour means that this is quite okay for those who are gluten-free.

This does taste very salty and you will get 760mg of sodium per 100g serving.

I see this ingredient so often now that I can almost recite this description off by heart. It is a white powder made from a starch that is cooked then acids or enzymes are added to break it down. The result is a white powder that is water-soluble and has a neutral taste. It can be used as a thickener, a filler and a preservative in processed foods.

Mineral salts (450, 451)
These are both diphosphates, which are salts of phosphoric acid. They are common stabilisers in processed food.

Yeast extract
This will be in here to add meaty flavour.

Antioxidant (316)
This is sodium erythorbate, which is produced from beetroot and sugarcane. Antioxidants work by delaying the oxidisation of food, so it is a preservative of sorts.

Preservatives (223, 250)
This is sodium metabisulphite (223) and sodium nitrite (250), which is used to inhibit the growth of the bacteria that causes botulism, as a colour fixative, but there is concern that it reacts with stomach acid to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds during digestion.

Acidity regulator (331)
This is sodium citrate, which is the salt of citric acid.

Spice extracts
Emulsifier (471)
This is mono and diglycerides of fatty acids, which are produced primarily from hydrogenated soya bean oil.

My recommendations:
This is a sausage meat, which means it is a mash up of some meat and several other things to keep it fresh on the shelf for a month or so.

I don't mind any of the additives in here with the exception of sodium nitrite, which has question marks over it regarding the carcinogenic compounds it forms during digestion. But it is low down the ingredients list and there are a few other preservatives doing their job in here too.

Latest advice on consumption of sodium nitrite is that we get most of it from fruit, vegetables and even beer. The NZ Food Standards found that "current estimated dietary nitrate and nitrite exposures are not considered to represent an appreciable health and safety risk".

If you're a fan of luncheon this is vastly preferable to the other luncheons I have looked at simply because it contains quite a bit of chicken and avoids using artificial flavours, MSG or soy protein fillers.

But, as I'd say about most processed foods, don't be a guts and eat the whole sausage in one sitting.

• Does not use MSG, artificial flavours of soy protein fillers.
• Does use sodium nitrite as a preservative.
• Uses cage-free chicken, but chicken farmed for meat are not kept in cages in New Zealand.

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