Wendyl Wants to Know: Massive ingredients list, tiny treat
I first bought these to analyse a few weeks ago but my children got to them first, devouring the lot in a matter of days. These are very popular with young kids and the packaging is encouraging for parents with the National Heart Foundation red tick prominently displayed because the product has less than 10 per cent fat. It also tells us on the back of the pack that it has less than 20 per cent sugar and is a source of fibre. Sounds great. But my heart sank when I looked at the ingredients panel. It has a massive list of various ingredients and additives which have all gone into a small bar not much bigger than my middle finger. I immediately spotted two sources of what I call "faux fibre" which is not really fibre as you would find in raw fruits, vegetables and grains:
Milkies Choc Vanilla $3.96 for 200g or10 x 20g bars.
Ingredients (in order of greatest quantity):
Cereals (32 per cent) (Wheat flour, wheat fibre) This then is the main ingredient which is wheat.
Chocolate Milkshake Flavoured Filling (21 per cent) Humectants (Sorbitol, Glycerol) A humectant is something which keeps a food moist. Sorbitol is a natural carbohydrate alcohol found in many berries and fruits but is commercially produced from glucose. It is also a sweetener. Sorbitol can cause bloating and flatulence as it is only partly absorbed by our bodies with the remainder fermenting in the large bowel. In some people it acts as a laxative and aggravates irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. Glycerol is a very common additive in processed foods. It 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.
Inulin I call this ingredient "faux fibre" because it is a fibre supplement added into so many foods now to beef up the fibre content. It naturally occurs in root vegetables, particularly chicory, and is a source of soluble fibre.
Glucose This is a simple sugar.
Milk Solids (2 per cent) These are the proteins and carbohydrates found in milk after dehydration.
Modified Starch (1442) This is hydroxypropyl distarch phosphate which is basically a starch which has been treated to be more stable and work as a thickener.
Cellulose This is a thickener but also a source of dietary fibre. Large concentrations can cause intestinal problems, such as bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. Due to this fact it can't be used in weaning foods for children aged under two years.
Water Cocoa Powder This is the same as you use in baking to get a chocolate flavour.
Flavour Unlikely to be a natural flavour or the label would say so, so we can presume it is artificial.
Acid (lactic) Lactic acid is found primarily in sour milk products and is often called milk acid.
Vegetable Gum (Xanthan) Xanthan is only of concern to people who may be allergic to corn, wheat or soy, from which the gum may have been derived. Some people also find the gum to be a laxative..
Colour (171) This is titanium dioxide which is used in foods to give a white colour. It occurs naturally in mineral.
SaltAntioxidant (307) Di-alpha tocopherol is a Vitamin E extract taken from oils and is most likely in here to avoid the product going rancid.
Rest of the biscuit
Brown sugar This is the same as you put on your porridge.
Invert Sugar This is sugar that has been treated to split it into glucose and fructose which is sweeter than sugar and when used in processed foods remains more moist and less prone to crystallisation.
Canola Oil As far as oils go this one is very good for you as it is low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat and is believed to have heart health benefits.
Modified Starch (1442) Listed above.
Humectant (Glycerol) Listed above
Polydextrose This is an ingredient created out of dextrose (glucose), sorbitol, a low calorie carbohydrate and citric acid to add to processed foods usually to add fibre. The fibre listing on the nutrition panel is 2.1g per serving of which 0.6g is polydextrose. But this is another "faux fibre" because it is not the same as the fibre we might get from a raw vegetable or fruit. It is called a functional fibre because no one knows if it has the same health benefits as fibre found in real foods.
Egg Powder This is dried egg.
Inulin Listed above
Raising Agents (500, 541, 341) These are sodium bicarbonate, sodium aluminium phosphate and calcium phosphate. All are regarded as quite safe and are in the product to make it rise when baked.
Emulsifiers (471, 472) The first ingredient is mono- and di- glycerides of fatty acids. However the second listing of 472 is misleading. Under the food code there are five different versions of this ingredient listed as 472a, 472b, 472c, 472d, 472e and 472f. They can be derived from tartaric, citric or lactic acids. So we know it is some form of acetic and fatty acid but not the source. Both ingredients are in here as emulsifiers to mix the canola oil with the water and keep it that way.
Vegetable Gums (Locust Bean, Xanthan) These are both natural vegetable gums used in here as thickeners. Some people find too much locust bean gum can cause abdominal pain and diarrhoea but in this small quantity it shouldn't do any harm.
Preservatives (282, 202, 263) The first ingredient is calcium propionate which is a mould inhibitor and has one study attached to it which found that irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbance was found in some children who consumed this ingredient, which is commonly found in bread. The second ingredient is potassium sorbate, which is the potassium salt of sorbic acid and inhibits moulds and yeasts and calcium acetate which is derived from lime which maintains pH levels.
Flavour As listed above
I was astounded to count 31 ingredients in this product, which is basically a soft muffin-like dough filled with a chocolate filling. As someone who eats very little processed food I found the taste very salty and not at all enjoyable, unlike my children. It is great that this product is low in sugar and fat and has fibre but it also has three preservatives, one with a study attached to it which doesn't make great reading. It also has artificial colour and flavour and "faux fibre" which makes the ingredients label look great but I believe the best fibre for our bodies should be accessed from real food such as fruit, veges and grains. In my opinion you are paying a high price in terms of additives in return for something which is low in fat and sugar. Instead search out the ingredients panel on other snack foods and look for less ingredients and in the nutrition panel look for less than 10g fat, 20g sugar and at least 10g fibre per 100g of product. Or simply encourage your child to have a banana instead. A 100g banana will give you no fat, only 12g of sugar and 3g of natural fibre.
Highlights * Has an astounding 31 ingredients for a bar the size of a finger. * Has two "faux fibre" ingredients which are not the same as the fibre you find in fruit, veges and grains. * You pay a high processed food price for the low fat and sugar content.