WENDYL WANTS TO KNOW is a very popular food detective column in New Zealand and this week on RadioLIVE, Wendyl revisited eating luncheon sausage (or Chub).
Hutton’s Ham & Chicken Flavoured Luncheon Chub – $3.20 for 250g.
We all grew up with luncheon sausage and tomato sauce sandwiches and indeed the catch line on the packaging says “The Family Favourite” and according to its website this brand has been “a trusted family favourite since it was introduced to New Zealanders in 1882”. It was an easy fix for Mum in the morning to reach into the refrigerator and retrieve the sausage encased in plastic, slice a few pieces off and throw them in the sandwich along with a squirt of sauce. I can also remember squares of luncheon joining pieces of pineapple and cocktail onions on toothpicks and being included in nibble platters during my childhood. I’m not sure if this is the same luncheon I grew up with, but one thing’s for sure you can’t call it luncheon sausage anymore. To call anything a sausage it must contain 50% meat, which this product doesn’t. It has 43% meat so let’s take a look at what else is in it.
Ingredients (in order of greatest quantity):
Meat (including pork) (43%)
At only 43% this means that 57% of this luncheon chub is made up of fillers. It is also a pretty good guarantee that there’s not enough meat in here to provide flavour so you will be getting some flavourings added further down this list as well. When you’ve got a product like this which clearly states “processed meat” at the end of the ingredients list, then this means that the meat in here is most likely to be meat trimmings, which is what is left over when main cuts of meat are boned and trimmed. And that includes all external parts of the animal such as skin and ears but internal parts such as liver and heart are not used. If they were they would have to be clearly labelled as offal. The listing for pork means there will be some left-over bits of pig in here.
The first of many products in this list which is in here to provide bulk to the 43% meat.
This is commonly used in processed foods as a meat extender and is protein taken from the soy bean.
Here most likely for flavour.
Here most likely for flavour
Stabilisers (407, 451)
The number 407 stands for carrageenan which is a gel extracted from seaweed but as natural as that sounds there are concerns from healthy eaters that it is an intestinal irritant and the joint Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Health Organisation expert committee on food additives advises it be kept out of infant formulas[WN1] . The number 451 stands for sodium triphosphate which is a mineral salt used in foods as a preservative and it will also help keep this luncheon tender and moist.
The label says “Ham & Chicken flavoured luncheon” so these will be the flavourings added to make what is basically a mixture of meats taste like ham and chicken. I’m not even sure what ham and chicken should taste like as you don’t often eat them together. This tastes like salty, slightly fatty meat paste to me.
This is sodium erythorbate which is a preservative.
Flavour Enhancers (621,627,631)
These are MSG or monosodium glutymate, disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate. MSG has had a troubled past and is used commonly in takeaway food. There is anecdotal evidence that it can cause asthma in some people and the New Zealand government requires it to be labelled. But despite many people reporting symptoms such as mood changes, nausea, migraine and abdominal discomfort there are no scientific studies to prove these reactions. Nevertheless some people choose to avoid it. Disodium guanylate is naturally extracted from fish but is not safe for babies under 12-weeks-old, and should generally be avoided by asthmatics and people with gout. Both this ingredient and disodium inosinate are used in processed foods to give a meaty flavour.
This is sodium nitrate which is found in most processed meats such as ham and bacon. It is used to inhibit the growth of the bacteria which causes botulism but there is concern that it reacts with stomach acid to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds during digestion. A study found that adults who consumed the highest amounts of nitrate and nitrite were almost 30 per cent more likely to develop bladder cancer than those who consumed the lowest amount of the compounds[WN2] .
When I’m feeding children I prefer to avoid things which have health studies attached to them such as MSG, sodium nitrate and carrageenan. I also like to give them real food not something which is only 43% real with the rest of the product being taken up by fillers, preservatives, flavourings and soy protein. I also think we should teach our children what real chicken and real ham looks and tastes like so why not cook up a chicken and keep it in the fridge? It only takes a moment to rip off some meat to put in a sandwich and at $1.30 per 100gms (if you buy a normal 1.3kg chicken) it is about the same price. Or buy sliced ham at the deli counter of your supermarket, making sure you order the ham which looks like it has come off a piece of meat, not reconstituted into a round circle. Good ham will still have some sodium nitrate in it, but you are reducing the amount of fillers and additives your child is consuming and giving them just one ingredient called meat. And if you want them to have a ham and chicken flavoured sandwich you could combine the chicken and the ham.
- Only 43% of this chub is actually meat, the rest is fillers.
- Flavourings are added to make it taste like ham and chicken, whatever that tastes like.
- Features three ingredients which health activists like to avoid.