Supermarkets under fire for cake additives

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 31st March 2009

An investigation by a leading consumer group into supermarket cakes has discovered some contain more than 20 additives, including those used to prolong shelf life or cover up cheaper ingredients.

Of the almost 100 cakes tested by Choice, Woolworths Bakehouse Sponge Iced and Fresh-Filled Cream cake was the worst offender with 27 additives. Top Taste Rollettes Choc and Woolworths Bakehouse Sponge Single Birthday Fresh Cream were a close second with 26 additives each.

“Most people wouldn’t use 40 ingredients when baking a cake at home yet that’s what we found in a large number of these cakes, with some of the worst examples containing more than 20 additives,” Choice spokeswoman, Elise Davidson, said.

Food colours are used to enhance a food’s appearance but also enable manufacturers to get away with using cheaper ingredients such as apples instead of raspberries in jam filling and palm oil instead of butter, according to the consumer group.

More than half the cakes also contained food colours which have been linked to increasing hyperactivity in children by a UK study published in medical journal The Lancet.

Food Standards Australia & New Zealand (FSANZ) has said that Australian parents should use labelling information to check for these food colours if they want their children to avoid them. They contend that current intake of these particular colours by the average child is not at high enough levels to warrant concern.

“Consumers expect the cakes they buy to be fresh and to maintain that freshness, so food manufacturers use additives, but we think consumers should be aware of the type of ingredients that go into a lot of these cakes,” Ms Davidson added.

The study claimed price was no indicator of quality, with some of the most expensive brands among the heaviest users of additives.

Australians spend $312 million a year buying cakes from supermarkets, which equates to about 70 million cakes.