Easter will soon be upon us so the supermarkets are full of Easter eggs and other sweet offerings.
I'm not about to declare that no sugar should be consumed during Easter, that would be no fun at all.
But I do think we should be careful when choosing Easter treats.
Some, like this one, will hold a few nasty surprises. Others will proudly boast no artificial colours or flavours, so read the ingredients panel carefully.
• Full cream milk — This is a standard ingredient for chocolate.
• Sugar — High in sugar as you would expect from a chocolate Easter egg. Per 25g serve you will get 16.9g or just over four teaspoons of sugar. I seriously doubt, however, that a child would stop at eating just a quarter of this egg. If you ate the whole egg you would consume 67.6g of sugar or 16 teaspoons of sugar.
• Cocoa mass — When you grind cocoa beans up you get a paste which is cocoa mass.
• Milk solids — Dehydrated milk leaves proteins and carbohydrates which is milk solids.
• Cornflour — This will be in here as a thickener.
• Emulsifiers (soya lecithin, 476) — Soya lecithin is a yellow-brownish fatty substance taken from soya beans. And 476 stands for polyglycerol polyricinoleate which is made from castor beans and is a common ingredient in chocolate because it reduces the thickness of the product. Both ingredients are in here as emulsifiers which usually act to keep oil and water mixed together.
• Flavours — These will be artificial colours as it is not stated otherwise. It is possible that most of the flavour will be concentrated on the orange of the Jaffas.
• Colours (124,102) — These colours are Ponceau 4R (124) a synthetic red dye and Tartrazine (102) a synthetic yellow dye. In 2007 a study was published by researchers from Southampton University on the effect of a combination of certain artificial food colours and sodium benzoate on childhood behaviour. The study supported a possible link between the consumption of these artificial colours and a sodium benzoate preservative and increased hyperactivity in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the general population.
These azo-dyes have become known as the "Southampton 6" and Ponceau 4R and Tartrazine are included in that group.
British ministers and the UK Food Standards Authority encouraged food manufacturers to comply with a voluntary ban on these colours. Subsequent to this a European Union-wide compulsory warning ("may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children") must now be put on any food and drink product that contains any of these six colours.
In New Zealand our Food Standards Authority allows these colours in our food and drinks.
• Glazing agent (903) — This is carnauba wax which is made from the leaves of the carnauba palm.
• Humectant (422) — This is glycerine which is a natural carbohydrate alcohol.
Jaffas have been around for so long that it's hard to think of them as anything but a wholesome Kiwi treat. But the two colours used in these sweets are not something I would choose because, for good reasons, they were removed in Britain and in the EU must carry a warning on the label. There are plenty of natural alternatives which can achieve an orange colour so I would go for the products which use those, not just for my health, but also as a consumer vote. I'm also not happy with artificial flavours, as used in this product.
Have a good look around when buying Easter eggs and go for the ones which don't use artificial flavours or colours. As for sugar, it's Easter, we can live a little and enjoy it as a treat.
• 16 teaspoons of sugar in this egg.
• Uses two synthetic colours voluntarily banned in Britain and must carry a warning in the EU.
• Contains artificial flavours.