Monday, 7 July 2008



If you’ve been watching the Great Pringles Are Not Crisps controversy, you’d be forgiven for wondering what they are. What are Pringles 'crisps' actually made of? So here, thanks to a 43g pack of Cheesey Cheese Pringles and a few mildly obsessive minutes on the Internet, is a breakdown of what you’re eating when you, errr, 'pop and can't stop'...



Just think, every time you hold one of those tasty 'shaped snacks' in your fingers before popping it into your mouth, it's actually an artificially shaped experience consisting of:
Dehydrated potatoes, vegetable oil (contains one or more of the following: corn oil and/or palm oil), corn flour, wheat starch, maltodextrin, emulsifier: E471 (from palm oil), cheese powder* (non-animal enzymes), salt, rice flour, whey powder, dextrose, flavour enhancer: monosodium glutamate, vegetable oil (sunflower, palm, coconut), natural and nature-identical cheese flavour (composed of cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese out of non-animal enzymes), buttermilk powder, onion powder, sugar, dried cream, non-fat milk, sodium caseinate, whey powder concentrate, food acid: lactic acid, flavour enhancers: disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate, yeast extact.
*from cows milk

Energy per 100g: 534 kcal
Fat per 100g: 35g of which 10g saturates

Just in case you didn't click on the link to the BBC story above, Pringles' "unnatural shape" and the fact that the potato content is less than 50% helped Justice Warren to decide that they're not crisps and therefore exempt the UK's 17.5% Value Added Tax.

You’re basically eating a mixture of dried potato and a variety of other processed food starches bound together with some strong fats and stabilisers, then flavoured with powerful artificial flavour enhancers, some processed dairy product extracts intended to create a slightly sour cheesy flavour and a splosh of sweeteners to help it all go down.


So what are those delicious looking ingredients, listed in order of weight? Here's a breakdown of every lovingly processed one of them!
Dehydrated potatoes
Apparently, according to media reports, something like 40% of a Pringle is actually potato – and dehydrated potato at that.

Vegetable oil (contains one or more of the following: corn oil and/or palm oil)
Corn oil is just fine, a relatively cheap vegetable oil. Palm oil is cheaper and more insidious, packing a wicked load of saturated fat: see this article over at The Fat Expat for more.

Corn flour
Is what it says on the packet, a starch derived from dried corn. Usually GM corn.

Wheat starch
Another starch, this time derived from wheat.

Derived, usually in a process of acidic breakdown, from vegetable starch (typically rice, corn or potato). Apparently a recent trend towards using wheat starch is suspected as a causative in increased coeliac reactions in the US. It’s basically an artificial sweetener.

Emulsifier E471 (from palm oil)
No wonder they call it E471. The ‘E’ numbers are the European Union food additive numbering codes and you can usually reckon, when you see one of these little darlings, that the number is preferable to the actual name. E471, then, is Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids (glyceryl monostearate, glyceryl distearate). We’re basically looking at a fat, chemically derived from palm oil, being used to combine otherwise difficult to combine substances (emulsification).

Cheese powder (non animal enzymes)
Basically, they haven’t used an animal rennet.

Sodium Chloride. Salt.

Rice flour
Yet another starch packing out that meagre piece of potato...

Whey powder
Whey is a by-product of cheese production and whey powder is used as a cheap sweetener as it’s rich in lactose – anything up to 75%.

A form of glucose, a sweetener.

Monosodium glutamate
MSG or E621: this is not generally considered to be a terribly good thing. MSG is an artificial flavour enhancer, widely used in Chinese cooking but used in highly processed foods to add ‘zing’ where flavour would otherwise be lacking. There is widespread anecdotal evidence of MSG side effects, including headaches, flushing, sweating, numbness, tingling or burning sensations, particularly in the mouth, chest pain and shortness of breath. However, it is still an additive approved for use in both the US and EU.

Vegetable oil (sunflower, palm, coconut)
Again, sunflower oil is a vegetable oil and is generally considered to be good for you in moderation. Both coconut oil and palm oil are very high in saturated fats and pretty much the same as eating pure animal fat in that respect. Both of the latter oils are more stable at room temperature, being semi-solid – particularly coconut oil.

Natural and nature-identical cheese flavour (composed of cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese out of non-animal enzymes)
Nature-identical flavours are artificially created flavourings, typically a compound of flavoids combined to match a breakdown of components created by spectrometric analysis.

Buttermilk powder
Literally the dried by-product of making butter, buttermilk is used as a flavouring, adding a slightly sour, tangy dairy taste.

Onion powder
Again, a flavouring

Dried cream
Is what is says.

Non-fat milk
Just that!

Sodium Caseinate (from cows)
Frequently used as an emulsifier and stabiliser

Whey powder concentrate
See whey powder above

Food acid: lactic acid
Both a preservative and a taste ingredient (it is used extensively in sour milk products).

Flavour enhancers: disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate
Disodium inosinate (C10H11N2Na2O8P to you) is commonly used alongside disodium guanylate, which results in disodium ribonucleotide or E635: a flavour enhancer that effectively potentiates MSG – ie: it makes the flavour ‘kick’ of the MSG greater. This lets manufacturers get more bang for their MSG buck.

Yeast extact.
Another, slightly more natural, flavour enhancer. Yeast extracts are made in a process that’s just like pouring salt on slugs: you add salt to a yeast suspension and the cells shrivel up and die. They are then heated and the unwanted cellulose strained off.

(I had a few angst moments about whether to post this here or over at The Fat Expat, the food blog to end all food blogs. I plumped for here, given that this is not really a recipe or a review, but something of a rant - and consumer protection is a FPS tag, not a TFE one.)


Ammouneh said...

if each food label is analysed this way,do you think we'll ever put anything in our mouths??

moryarti said...

No, but atleast u'll think a twice before you stuff your face with it :)

Anonymous said...

"Both coconut oil and palm oil are very high in saturated fats and pretty much the same as eating pure animal fat in that respect".

Not true. Coconut oil is nature’s richest source (64%) of MCFAs. Together with its tropical cousins, palm and palm kernel oils, they are the best natural sources of the shorter chain fatty acids (MCFAs & SCFAs). If LCFAs are everywhere, SCFAs are rare. Thanks to the coconut palm, benefiting from MCFAs is well within your reach.

The absorption, transport, metabolism and uses of LCFAs and MCFAs are entirely different. LCFA-oils such as canola, soybean, corn and olive oils, and LCFA-fats like beef, chicken fat and lard are packaged into lipoproteins to circulate throughout your body. MCFA-oils like coconut and palm kernel oils are instantly absorbed into the portal vein and send straight to your liver where they are used as fuel to produce energy. What a world of difference if I may say so.

alexander... said...

Coconut oil is a fat consisting of about 90% saturated fat. The oil contains predominantly medium chain triglycerides,[1] with roughly 92% saturated fatty acids, 6% monounsaturated fatty acids, and 2% polyunsaturated fatty acids. Of the saturated fatty acids, coconut oil is primarily 44.6% lauric acid, 16.8% myristic acid a 8.2% palmitic acid and 8% caprylic acid, although it contains seven different saturated fatty acids in total. Its only monounsaturated fatty acid is oleic acid while its only polyunsaturated fatty acid is linoleic acid.

Why are you commenting anonymously?

Grumpy Goat said...

When I pop, I can't start. Not after reading that!

the real nick said...

so which crisps are natural, then?

alexander... said...


You won't find many in this neck of the woods for sure!

The organic supermarkets in Dubai sell 'good' (read, sadly, 'worthy tasting') crisps. Tyrell's are probably the 'best' of 'em, being fried in sunflower oil, GM free and, as far as I know, lacking in artificial ingredients, flavourings and preservatives. Spinneys sell 'em.

Lays are fried in palm oil, so that's not necessarily a good thing...

At least they're made out of sliced potato, not reconstituted starch gunk.

Seabee said...

I did try Pringles once - Mrs Seabee likes them for some obscure reason - and I must say I was amazed when I read the story to see that they had any potato in them at all.

NYC taxi photo said...

well, this almost answers my question, or worries me more. I'm sitting down beside a can i just bought of a bbq flavor with lactic acid as an ingredient. And I can't figure out if it is a milk product. any experts know? I'm allergic to dairy, and these long ingredients on all chips can be very frustrating as i always miss one when i check at the store.

NYC taxi photo said...

Ok, I found my answer, that ingredient is not from dairy

however if anyone else is concerned, whey is an ingredient that a lot of these companies throw in to the most unlikely of flavors, and there are many more. As for this whole topic, I'd suggest shopping for a healthier brand of chip with a smaller simpler list of ingredients. All the chip companies throw in a whole lot of extra long words in their ingredients that preserve the food more than your stomachs.

Diane Oliver said...

High court says they are crisps now. When will the controversy end?

Awful things, feeding naught but a nation's salt addiction.

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