Customers usually expect the quality of the ingredients used in deli salads to be adequate. dTest purchased 28 packaged walnut and fish salads and used their labels to examine how they stack up not only in terms of composition but also in terms of nutritional value.
The composition of deli products is not regulated by any regulations and legislation only sets hygiene limits and general rules on the use of additives. The recipe and the quality of the ingredients used are therefore entirely in the hands of the manufacturer. The only exceptions are the Guild Standards issued by the Chamber of Foodstuffs. Manufacturers subscribe to them voluntarily and thereby commit themselves to certain minimum requirements.
For the thirteen selected walnut salads, dTest focused primarily on the salami used. Information about its quantity should be provided on the label – as food labelling rules state that if the customer associates a food with an ingredient, its proportion must be declared. However, the quantity of sausage used was not declared on the packaging of seven brands. For the remaining six salads, the declared proportion ranged from 23 to 28 %. The lowest proportion was claimed by the Billa/Clever brand, while at the other end was the Globus Walnut Salad for sandwiches.As for the composition of the sausages used, this was described on all labels and the names suggested that they were Parisian salami, junior and deli or factory salami. “Given this variety, we focused on three main criteria: the number of types of meat, the addition of starch and the use of machine-separated meat, or separates. We came across almost every possible combination,” says Hana Hoffmann. The brands that scored the lowest points for the quality of their salami were Boneco and Dostál. Both of them declared in the composition the use of a sausage based exclusively on poultry separate with added starch. The machine-separated meat was also included in the deli salami of the Lahůdky Palma brand.
In other ingredients, the walnut salads were already similar. dTest also looked at the declared addition of sweeteners, colorings, flavorings, flavor enhancers and preservatives. Preservatives were present in all products, the most common being sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate. More than half of the walnut salads were free of the other additives monitored.
In the case of fifteen fish salads, the proportion of fish was indicated on all products and in all cases it was marinated herring. The lowest amount of fish was declared by Rybex Fish Salad in mayonnaise, while the highest amount was offered by Penny/Gran Mare and Kaufland/K-Classic Fish Salad in mayonnaise.
And the mayonnaise or yoghurt content should be easy to find on the labels. For salads without yogurt, the mayonnaise content ranged from 32 to 42 %. The fish salads with mayonnaise of Albert, Lidl/Nautica and Varmuža brands reported the least. Mayonnaise was mentioned in the ingredients of all fish salads with yoghurt, but the manufacturers did not always declare its share. Albert/Sherry salad with yoghurt had the lowest value, while Lidl/Nautica Scandinavian herring salad with yoghurt was at the other end.
All the fish salads announced the addition of a chemical preservative and often included both natural and unnatural flavours. However, dTest did not encounter colouring or flavour enhancers in any of the fish products. We were also pleasantly surprised by the high number of products with the certified fishery logo, which indicates that the fish used was caught in a sustainable way.
“In terms of nutrient content, walnut and fish salads are similar. The only positive difference in fish salads is the natural content of omega-3 fatty acids. If you would like to reach for a fish salad as a source of nutritionally interesting fat, choose those made from herring. In salads made from lean cod, the proportion of fish oil is very low,” explains Hana Hoffmannová.
Fish salads with yoghurt were the least fatty, with the Penny/Gran Mare fish salad with yoghurt showing the lowest ever value of 10 g/100 g. However, some of the walnut salads also managed to come close to this figure.
Fish salads fared significantly better in terms of protein content. On average, they account for 6.8 % of protein, while for walnut salads it is exactly half. The walnut salads were also slightly sweeter than the fish ones with an average of 3.8 % sugar. The fish salads performed similarly in terms of salt content. The walnut ones averaged around 1.8 %, while the fish ones were a tenth of a percentage point lower.
If you want to enjoy your salad, pay attention to the quality of the ingredients used. “With walnut salads, it is worth looking at the composition of the salami in particular. Prefer one without mechanically separated meat, added starch and colouring. For fish salads, prefer those with as much fish meat as possible. In general, a good quality salad can do without colourings and flavour enhancers. On the other hand, chemical preservatives are virtually unavoidable when buying packaged deli salads,” concludes Hana Hoffmannová.