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'I tell you one thing: I've been to a parallel universe, I've seen time running backwards, I've played pool with planets, and I've given birth to twins, but I never thought in my entire life I'd taste an edible Pot Noodle.' So are the immortal words of Red Dwarf's Dave Lister on this, the most contentious of snacks. The Pot Noodle surfs through our culture on a wave on controversy. The history of the brand is riddled with complaints and banned adverts - The 'slag of all snacks' has been a plague to television regulators with viewer's displeasure over their 'degrading', innuendo laden adverts. To top it all off, in a survey in 2004 it was voted the UK's most hated brand.
Regardless of what appears to be the opinion of the general public, the Pot Noodle is widely regarded as the staple of the student diet and the centre-piece of the budget kitchen cupboard. For a lot of new arrivals at university, the student stereotype will fully expect them to down forks on vegetables, good meat and real cooking and take up the kettle for something easy and instant. The real question is, does the Pot Noodle reputation, match the facts?
First off, the nutritional information on a lot of instant noodles can be very deceptive. Guidelines on the pot for 'Typical values per 100g as prepared' should be taken with a pinch of salt (fortunately you can have that and more, once you've prepared the snack). What a consumer needs to bear in mind here is that the noodles themselves weigh less than this, and the nutritional values are diluted once water is added to increase the weight of the food. What is quite useful on the part of the Pot Noodle brand is that they, unlike some of their counterpart products, include a 'Per pot' column. These are figures we can more easily judge.
So a few years ago Pot Noodle claimed to have changed their recipe to make their product have a lower salt content. The NHS says that 1.5 per 100g is a high salt intake for food. The classic beef and tomato flavoured Pot Noodle has 1.79g in a pot which is almost 30% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 6g. Now over to the saturated fats, which are triglycerides with no double bonds between their carbon atoms, linked to heart disease and a higher cholesterol. The old favourite beef and tomato: 6.8g of saturates, which is 34% of the RDA. The new piri piri chicken flavour stacks up 8g of saturates- 40% of a persons RDA.
Good news? The plastic that the pots are made from is widely recyclable and the noodles claim to be free from artificial preservatives and colours. Best of all, vegetarians need not miss out with a vast range of meaty flavours all suitable for their consumption.
The ancient Chinese, credited by some with the invention of the noodle, would probably find these processed and potted descendents almost unrecognisable. But it would seem that 4000 years later, this historical staple is still, in the eyes of the general public, admirably serving the students of today.