The doner kebabs sold in UK takeaway lure in late-night drinkers en route from the closed pub to home rather like the Psirens of Greek mythology lured travelers to their death. Doner kebabs are doner meat served with salad and chilli sauce in a toasted pita bread. Despite being such a popular takeaway choice much mystery shrouds the food at the heart of the kebab itself: the doner meat. Equally as much mystery surrounds healthy issues relating to doner meat. Kebab aficionados typically argue the doner kebab to be the healthiest of the takeaway choices since it contains salad and pita bread. This article aims to shed some light by answering the question, what are the ingredients of takeaway doner meat and is it really that bad for you?
Doner meat is served from a rotating, heated spit; slices of meat are carved from a large chunk of meat. This is the first warning sign that doner kebabs are unhealthy – the meat is reheated again and again and again. Additionally, the meat is reformed and heavily spiced making it impossible to determine what part(s) of the animal it came from. This is probably what’s caused much of the uncertainty and speculation surrounding the ingredients of doner meat: claims range from lamb off-cuts to rat offal.
We can extinguish some of this speculation by look at what the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have to say regarding the law on doner meat. The FSA say that unless labeled otherwise the meat in a doner kebab must be lamb. Have you ever tried asking your local takeaway what’s in doner meat? If you have it’s unlikely they’ll tell you as most of them don’t know – the meat is purchased on frozen skewers from outside companies rather than made in-house. Besides, according to the FSA takeaways constitute catering establishments and as such are not obliged to tell you anything with regard to ingredients. So although it contains lamb we’re still far from a definitive ingredient list.
Perhaps we can’t even take solace in the FSA’s comments. According to a sampling programme carried out by the Lincolnshire Government in 2002, of eight kebabs tested three were “unsatisfactory” in that they contained meats other than lamb. One only contained 1% of sheep meat! Perhaps these are rare cases but even if you accept the fact that the doner meat only contains lamb there’s no assurance as to how much of it is offal or fat.
Something that may be easier to shed light on is the fat content. Doner meat has recently attracted criticism for it’s high levels of trans fat (hydrogenated plant fat that can contribute to coronary heart disease, obesity and diabetes). Commenting on the findings Manchester Online said, “a doner kebab was found to contain 5.8g of trans fat per portion compared to 0.87g in a Big Mac and fries”. You can see the evidence of this fat yourself – such unhealthy fats will solidify and turn white when left too cool down. Next time you purchase a kebab take a sample of the meat and leave it in a cool place overnight. The more white globules you see clinging to the meat the next day the more unhealthy fats (trans fats and saturated fats) are on the meat. You will find that they vary from takeaway to takeaway but they will always be there.
So the only place to look to for enlightenment is the manufacturers of the doner meat themselves. Sadly, they’re are both protective and secretive about their doner meat. To help research this article several manufacturers of doner meat were contacted – only one responded. They said that doner meat is made from lamb belly (that fattest part) and the fundamental ingredients are rusk, salt, onion powder, chopping phosphate and ground pepper. They did however say the remaining ingredients were down to the preference of the manufacturer.
What are the Ingredients of Takeaway Doner meat and is it really that bad for you? Sadly, the mystery continues. While it is possible to determine the basics we munch on our kebabs at the mercy of its makers. You can be sure, however, that the salad and pita bread don’t provide sufficient nutrition to counteract the high levels of fat they contain. Maybe kebabs are destined to be as mysterious as the Greek Psirens. Would you would rather die of doner meat or by being enticed by a woman of unimaginable beauty? For the kebab lovers out there it’s an easy question to answer.