Now wash your hands! How a good sandwich is made

Friday 12th June, 2015  


Oh for pity’s sake people let’s get a bit of realism here can’t we?

Last week the Daily Mail had an expose of a factory in Nottinghamshire where pre-packed sandwiches are made – and the horror that the workers didn’t wear gloves.

Rather than have the workforce donning plastic or rubber coverings the owners insisted on clean bare hands.

Amazingly there was an uproar about this, with claims that no-one should be eating sandwiches that were being made in such unhygienic conditions...

...really, that’s the reason not to eat a shop bought pack of sandwiches!

Back in 2005 I told you about the anti-salt campaigners, CASH, declaring that these products should carry health warnings for the salt content alone.

The advice is that an adult should eat no more than 6g per day, yet the Waitrose sausage, egg and bacon pack contained 4.17g, the Tesco all day breakfast not far behind on 4g and even the nation's favourite cheese ploughman’s from Boots wading in at 3.5g.

Surely this was something to get upset by rather than the potential state of someone’s fingernails.

The health risks from pre-packaged sandwiches have been highlighted in several newspapers, with The Times featuring the headline ‘Cheese and pickle sandwich and a heart attack’ in 2009 and a Which statement from the same year reporting that ‘apparently healthy options’ such as chicken are not as good as they seem, with a herb chicken and rocket sandwich from Pret A Manger containing the same levels of fat as a Big Mac burger.

Again the level of public outrage was barely more than a tut and shake of the head.

As a nation we consume over 2 billion shop bought sandwiches each year in the UK amounting to around £4 billion of revenue (interestingly the revenue from the sales of cookbook and recipe books accounts for a mere £90 million by comparison).

Now that is big business, and it is growing as more of us seek out a quick and satisfying lunch that we eat at our desks.

The lunch hour is a thing of the past, and even making your own sandwiches is less popular now than it has ever been.
But you really should know what it is that you are eating.

The horror within

Once you begin to look into the factory-made sandwich business you realise that a grubby fingernail and too much salt are just the tip of the iceberg.

How does blood gel, wheat starch and chemical colourants sound as a filling for you?

Understandably you might not choose that over a nice ham sandwich, but guess what, they are one and the same thing.

By combining blood plasma proteins, starch, flavourings, colourants, a raft of preservatives and shredded pork fat, allowing it to set then slicing it really fine, you would have ‘reconstituted meat’.

This is what you will see on the ingredients panel of a pack of sarnies.

The British Sandwich Association (who else would you turn to for the statistics!) say that the most popular sandwich filling in the UK is chicken, followed by cheese and with egg a distant third.

If only we could rely on them being what they say they are.

WARNING: If you love a chicken sandwich look away now!

Most cheap chicken is of the reformed type. By that I don’t mean it was once a chicken who made bad life choices then found its place back in society...

...I’m talking about birds (including guts, bones and feet) being minced, pushed through a sieve, slaked with salt, steamed to plump up the mixture then placed into moulds to ‘form’ a breast portion.

This is then sliced and mixed with a gloop containing yet more salt, high fructose corn syrup and starch to make the popular coronation chicken filling.

Mmm race you to Tesco’s for that one!

Even cheese isn’t safe

You would think that a nation of artisan cheese makers like Britain would be fiercely proud of our industry...

...but the quest for increasing profits overrides national sentiment!

Rather than use whole milk to make curds that are then left to mature for weeks and months, the alternative is to mix oil in with the milk, add yet more starch and compress the mixture to make processed ‘cheese food’ in a matter of hours.

None of this sounds appetising when laid out in this way, but pack it up in a pretty box, sit it in a refrigerated display case and hear the tills ring.

We should be thankful that there are no rubber gloves in the sandwich factory because the chances are they would end up in the mix as well – perhaps the most authentic and tasty part of it!

Sadly our society now seems to accept poor quality food as standard and is happy to fork out the huge prices for it.

Rather than get up a little earlier and cut up a nice box of fresh salad, pull together a proper ham sandwich and an apple for the grand price of about a pound, many folk prefer to queue at a shop, pay five times as much and get ‘meat gel’ and salt laden starch.

Daily Mail readers I encourage you to be reviled by the sandwich factory, but maybe not for the reasons you thought you were.

Yours, as always







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