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Survey gives burgers a grilling

23th July 2000

With half of teenagers now eating three or four burgers every week, a new report from the Food Commission published today says most frozen burgers are fatty, over-salted products pumped up with non-meat fillers, water and flavour boosting ingredients.

The survey of 40 popular beef burgers and grillsteaks found two-thirds contained less than 90% pure meat, with some containing as little as 60% meat. And every burger contained meat that was fattier than typical beef mince. 'Compared with regular minced beef at 16% fat, we found some frozen burgers using meat that was 50% pure fat,' said Food Commission co-director Sue Dibb. 'Even after grilling, some products were providing six teaspoons of fat in a single portion, including high levels of artery-clogging saturated fat.'

Yet shoppers face a real problem trying to compare products, says the Food Commission. 'Some products tell you the nutrients before cooking, some only after cooking - and with up to a third of the fat and water dripping off a burger under the grill, it is often impossible to compare two products,' says Ms Dibb

The survey also found many companies using cheap filling agents including starches, beet fibre, pea fibre and rice flour to pad out the meat, and chemicals to increase the amount of water in the product.

The Food Commission also challenges Safeway and Asda over their pricing of burgers. Both retailers charge a 20-30% premium for their quarter pounders compared with their regular burgers, even though shoppers are getting exactly the same weight and the same recipe. The Food Commission rates Tesco's quarter pounders and grillsteaks, Dalepak sandwich burgers and products from Pure Organics and Organix Favourites as the best of the bunch in terms of the least fat. Of these, only Organix Favourites did not use cheap flavour boosters.

But the Food Commission gives a thumbs down to burgers with the fattiest meat which also tended to be the cheapest with the most added extras - such as rusk, beet fibre and rice flour - including other products from Dalepack, Iceland and Tesco. Highest salt was found in Safeway quarter pounders, with nearly a teaspoon in each one.

The Food Commission is calling for labelling that makes it easier for shoppers to compare products, including clear statements about the fattiness of the meat.