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Turkey Twizzlers: why the Bernard Matthews snacks were banned from schools after Jamie Oliver programme - and if the new formula is healthy

They were a popular dinner time treat in the 90s, and now the Turkey Twizzler is making a comeback.

Published: August 17, 2020
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Fifteen years after being banned, Turkey Twizzlers are making a comeback.

The infamous school dinner favourites were discontinued amid concerns they were encouraging obesity in children.

But now manufacturer, Bernard Matthews, has reworked the formula to reflect a more health-conscious era.

Here's everything you need to know.

Why were Turkey Twizzlers banned?

The notorious lunchtime snacks were barred from school dinners in 2005 after being targeted by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver in his TV show Jamie's School Dinners, which revealed their high fat and sugar content.

The original version of the food product was made up of 40 ingredients including pork fat, rusk and coating with only a third (34 per cent) being made up of turkey meat.

Although turkey meat is generally low in saturated fat content and calories in comparison to other meats, even Bernard Matthews admitted their Turkey Twizzlers "nutritional value wasn't fantastic.”

What's changed?

Bernard Matthews says the new Turkey Twizzlers recipe is healthier, but intended to be just as tasty as it was in the noughties.

The product's distinctive corkscrew shape remains, with the original Twizzler machines having been recommissioned to recreate the same spiralling design.

They are also now available in two flavours - Original Tangy Tomato, and Chilli Cheese.

"Turkey Twizzlers have listened to the public and completely transformed themselves into a much-improved product," said nutritionist Dr Sarah Schenker.

The revamped Twizzlers now have a nutritional profile consumers can be "confident in", and are "high in good quality protein and lower in fat, saturates, salt and sugar."

Bernard Matthews are still recommending fans pair the returning Twizzlers with "plenty of veg such as a corn on the cob and broccoli" to "create a balanced meal.”

Are they healthy now?

'While it’s a healthier version of its former self, it remains an ultra-processed product' (Photo: Bernard Matthews)

Bernard Matthews' marketing director David Leigh said the manufacturer has spent "a lot of time" making sure they delivered a "significantly healthier, product than it was before."

"If you look at our product now and let's say you compared, say, two pork sausages to two Twizzlers, there's 83% more saturated fat in two average pork sausages compared to two Twizzlers," he added.

Leigh claimed the old Turkey Twizzler was just 34% meat and had 137 kcal, while the new version was 70% meat and had 87 kcal.

At the time of writing, Jamie Oliver is yet to publicly comment on the return of Turkey Twizzlers, but food experts have expressed doubt at the nutritional value of the relaunched product.

“The fact it’s taken Bernard Matthews 15 years to reformulate the Turkey Twizzler shows what a truly terrible product it used to be," said Barbara Crowther of the Children’s Food Campaign.

"Doubling the turkey content still only takes it to 67-70% meat content, and while it’s a healthier version of its former self, it remains an ultra-processed product.

“We recommend sticking to fresh, whole, free-range and/or organic turkey, low-fat, high in protein and with no added sugars at all.”

Where can I buy them?

The revamped Turkey Twizzlers will be available across all major supermarkets, starting with Iceland, from 20 August.

They'll be found in the frozen aisle, and come with a recommended retail price of £3 for a pack of eight.

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