Wendyl Wants to Know: Old family friend gets healthy heart tick
$4.08 for 375g or 15 fish fingers.
Fish fingers have been a family staple for many New Zealand families.
Most kids love them and they are quick and easy to make for busy parents, taking just 10 minutes to grill or fry.
They also come with the National Heart Foundation red tick which is given to foods which encourage less salt, less "bad" fats, less energy, more fibre and more calcium.
It also sports an "Omega 3 - A Good Source" label which will be a combination of the fish and the canola oil in the product and it is made by a 100 per cent-owned and operated fishery - Independent Fisheries Ltd.
So if you're going to go for a quick meal you could do a lot worse.
Let's see what is in them.
Fish mince (59 per cent)
The nice man on the end of the phone at Independent Fisheries in Christchurch told me the fish used in this product is "mostly hoki". This is good news as hoki stocks are among the best managed in the world according to the Seafood Industry Council. Thanks to reducing quotas a decade ago the hoki stocks have been rebuilt and are now managed to ensure they remain plentiful.
Hoki is not oily so it has minimal omega 3 levels compared with salmon or tuna.
This is flour you would use when crumbing fish.
This oil is low in saturated fats and high in monosaturated fats which are good for us. It is recommended by the National Heart Foundation for high levels of omega 3, which are especially important during early childhood for eye and brain development.
This is the same as cornflour and most likely in here as a thickener, except it is made out of wheat.
Mineral Salts (450,451)
These are sodium triphospate and diphosphate. They are used mainly in detergents and soaps to help strengthen cleaning action, but also in foods as a preservative to keep food tender and moist [WN1].
This will be mixed with the flour and water to make the breadcrumb mix.
Salt Raising Agents (500, 541, 170)
These do the job of baking powder, 500 is sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, 541 is sodium aluminium phosphate, and 170 is calcium carbonate or chalk.
Vegetable Gum (412)
This is our old friend guar gum which is extracted from the guar shrub found in Pakistan and India.
It is in here as a stabiliser which helps keep the fish fingers looking good and not crumbling into pieces when they are packaged, transported and stored.
Spices (includes mustard flour)
A small percentage of the population has an allergy to mustard so it must be reported on the label.
Acidity regular (262)
This is sodium acetate, a sodium salt of acetic acid which is basically vinegar.
Colour (160b - spice extract annatto)
This is orange-yellow colouring often added to crumb mixtures - I found it used on chicken nuggets when I looked at them. It is annatto extract which is a natural dye made from the seed coating of the tropical annatto tree. There are studies which have found it can cause allergic reactions, headaches and irritability [WN2]. People with food intolerance avoid this colouring, but the New Zealand Food Standards Authority allows it. Often food products labelled with "natural colouring" can include annatto extracts.
There are 16 ingredients here for what is basically a bit of fish with some breadcrumbs on it. With any processed crumbed food you are taking on extra additives to give it colour, keep the crumb mixture crisp and preserve the product in the freezer. And in this case the colour annatto is not a good one in my opinion. You can make your own fish fingers if you have time to get rid of unneeded additives. Fresh hoki sells for about $18.99 a kg but you can also buy it frozen. Either way you are buying a fish from our waters which is managed ecologically and sustainably and giving your kids some fish, which is a healthy option.
* Made out of hoki which is a sustainable fish thanks to industry quotas.
* Takes 16 ingredients for what is basically fish and breadcrumbs.
* Has the National Heart Foundation red tick and is high in omega 3 fatty acids.