The return of the turkey king

After the Twizzler fiasco, Bernard Matthews is back with a new 'healthy' children's range
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Britain's most infamous turkey tycoon is back. Rebounding from negative coverage over bird flu and his Twizzlers, Bernard Matthews is to take his first steps back into the children's lunch market.

The Norfolk-based septuagenarian, who invented the concept of shaped poultry products for children with Turkey Dinosaurs in the early 1980s, is braving the potential scorn of middle-class parents with a new range of cooked meats that will take the £400m company into the so-called "functional food" market for the first time.

The new Packed Munch sub-brand, which has been launched in Sainsbury's, is being aimed at the children's lunch-box market and features three different turkey-based concoctions that have been fortified with additional nutrients.

So far the range comprises just three products – turkey breast slices with calcium, and turkey ham and turkey breast slices with omega-3 – but, according to documents filed with the UK Intellectual Property Office, it could be extended to anything from pasties to desserts.

Wary of the Turkey Twizzler fiasco, which were dropped in 2005 after the chef Jamie Oliver singled them out for criticism in his television series Jamie's School Dinners, the company has promised that the Packed Munch range is low in fat and contains no artificial colours or flavours. This is in stark contrast to Turkey Twizzlers, which combined processed turkey with pork fat and, according to Oliver, seriously unhealthy levels of saturated fat. Gerard O'Mahony, the company's marketing controller, said the new products offered "stealth health" for parents who were struggling to find healthy options that their children like.

Yet a glance at the ingredients list could have parents searching for something else to put between their child's two slices of bread, such as a slice of leftover chicken breast from the previous Sunday's joint. In the turkey breast with omega-3 there are no fewer than 19 separate ingredients, ranging from three different types of starches and caramelised sugar syrup to stabilisers and lactose.

The chef Antony Worrall Thompson was sceptical about the nutritional merit of the new range. "What's the point of mucking about with a good product? If you are going to try to get kids to eat healthily, then don't mess about with the food. One imagines the turkey is just minced and reconstituted like before. If the kids had a balanced diet in the first place they wouldn't need all those extra bits and pieces like fish oil."

Mr O'Mahony said the breast slices were made from 100 per cent breast meat, but that is not clear from the ingredients list.

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