Food Additives and Traditional Baking

A scientific report has led the Food Standards Agency to revise its advice about some food colourings and the preservative sodium benzoate as they can lead to a 'negative effect on children's behaviour'.

Other than commenting that many parents were already aware of this because 'little Johnny' acts like a whirling dervish every time he has certain drinks/sweets – I don't really need to comment.

However, the report made me think that maybe farm-shopping is a way of avoiding largely unnecesary additives? Imaging my surprise then when I looked at the list of ingredients in steak pies sold by a producer that sells at many farmer's markets in the area:

"filling 50% British Beef 20% gravy ,gravy contains the following potato starch, maltodextrin, hydrogenated vegetable oil. Salt, colour(E150c), flavourings (contain celery, soya, wheat) wheat flour, flavour enhancers (E621,E6350, emulsifier (e322) (soya), spice & herb extracts, onion extract, malt vinegar (from Barley), spirit vinegar, molasses, sugar,salt, anchovies, tamarind extract, onions, garlic, spice, flavouring. 5% onion Pastry 25% (wheat flour, butter, vegetable fat, salt ) water) free range egg wash."

Note: I think E6350 should probably read E635.

Now, personally, I wouldn't buy this product on the basis of the trans fats present in the hydrogenated vegetable oil. A product with proved links to increases in the risk of coronary heart disease. However, that aside, what about the rest of it? The e-numbers are:

E150c Ammonia caramel

E621 Monosodium glutamate

E635 Disodium 5'-ribonucieotides

E322 Lecithin

Many people's assumption would be that these are present to give a good 'shelf-life to the pie. This is not the case, they are flavour enhancers, colouring, and emulsifiers. Surely not necessary in a product made from quality ingredients?

I'm not saying that these pies are not excellent eating, or that anything in the way they are marketed is illegal but the companies web-site home page tells us that the company uses 'Traditional Baking' and that they are 'Farmhouse Foods - Made by Farmers'.

All I can say is that given the above ingredients there were some mighty odd recipes used in their farmhouses, perhaps Mum was a research chemist!

This is not another 'dig' at farm-shops – many do sell a truly home-made product, and long may they do so, they're superb! The answer is, that even when farm-shopping, ask questions about the provenance and contents of the products. If they don't seem right, don't buy.

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