Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label says about its contents.

It's bright pink, covered in hundreds and thousands and it calls itself a muesli bar. Even the most naive consumer would find this a big stretch of the imagination.

A muesli bar by definition is made of muesli which, according to my dictionary, is "based on rolled oats, fruit and nuts".

The picture on the front of the package features a few oats but no fruit or nuts. But wait, there is a further explanation on the packet: "A delicious mix of muesli and biscuit." Oh, that's okay then. But not really. I don't think you can call a bar that resembles a biscuit a muesli bar, but maybe I'm rushing to conclusions.

* Oats: The label tells me that these bars are 14 per cent oats, which really doesn't qualify as a muesli bar in my book when the rest of the bar is made up of processed cereals.


* Cornflakes: (corn, sugar, barley malt extract, emulsifier [471], vitamins [niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid], mineral [iron]). This tells us that cornflakes have been added to this mix and that cornflakes are made out of the above ingredients. All are self-explanatory except the emulsifier, which is mono and dyglycerides of fatty acids, which are made primarily from hydrogenated soya bean oil.

* Rice pops: (rice flour, sugar, salt, emulsifier [471], malt extract [from barley]). This tells us that rice pops or rice bubbles, have been added and that they contain the above ingredients, including the same emulsifier 471 as used in cornflakes.

Glucose syrup (from maize)

This is basically corn syrup, which is a very sweet syrup extracted from corn and a common ingredient in processed foods. The total amount of sugar found in each 30g bar is 8.8g which is about two teaspoons or 29.2 per cent.

Pink icing

(Sugar, vegetable fat, milk solids, emulsifiers [soya lecithin, 492] colour [120], flavour.)

The pink icing used on these bars is mainly sugar, which is technically what icing is with emulsifiers added, including 492. This is sorbitan tristearate and has no known health issues. The red colour used is cochineal or carmine, which is made from insects and is natural. But the flavour used will be artificial.

Biscuit crumb

(Wheat flour, vegetable fat, sugar, whey powder, invert syrup, salt, raising agents [baking powder, 450], emulsifier [soy lecithin], flavour, colour [160b].)

They've taken the biscuits underneath the hundreds and thousands biscuits that you buy and crushed them. The ingredients are self-explanatory, except for the raising agent 450, which is a diphosphate with no known health effects, artificial flavour and colour 160b, which is annatto. It is made from the seed coat of the tropical annatto tree. Some people have allergic reactions to this, but it is natural.

Canola oil

This is a common and cheap oil used in processed foods.

Invert syrup

This is sugar which has been treated to split into glucose and fructose and is sweeter than sugar. When used in processed foods it remains more moist and less prone to crystallisation.

Brown sugar

This is brown sugar as you would put on your porridge.

Hundreds and thousands

(Sugar, maize starch, maltodextrin, colours [100,133,124,122,110,142].)

So they didn't use the natural coloured hundreds and thousands which are now available.

Instead we have Curcumin (100), which is the only natural colour used in these. Brilliant Blue FCF (133) can cause allergic reactions in asthmatics and has been banned in many countries.

Ponceau 4R (124), Azorubine (122), Sunset Yellow (110) have all been voluntarily phased out by UK food producers and any food producers who continue to use these artificial colours must now put a compulsory warning on their labels which says "may have effects on activity and attention in children".

Green S (142) has never been approved in the US because of concerns about hyperactivity, and has been banned in Canada and Japan.

Emulsifier (soy lecithin)

This product has 60mg of salt in each 30g bar.


This will be artificial flavour.

My recommendation:

Oats make up 14 per cent of this bar and the rest is pre-processed cornflakes (7 per cent), rice pops (6 per cent), crushed biscuits (17 per cent), pink icing (19 per cent) and hundreds and thousands (1 per cent). With no nuts or dried fruit and the main ingredients being pink icing and biscuits, I'm calling this a biscuit. A good guide to buying muesli bars is less than 2g saturated fat, less than 10g sugar, more than 1.5g fibre and less than 600kj per bar. This bar has 2.8 g saturated fat, 8.8g sugar, no fibre is stated on the label and 561kj a bar. Technically it's okay on sugar and kilojoules but not on fat or fibre.

Don't be fooled into thinking all the health-giving properties of muesli are anywhere near this bar, which has artificial colours and flavours.

* Artificial colours phased out in the UK and one banned in the US.
* Has 14 per cent oats in it but not much else we associate with muesli.
* Uses processed cereals such as cornflakes and rice pops.

Do you have a food product you would like to feature?

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On the web

Read Wendyl's columns on other food products at: http://tiny.cc/01b9u.