Popular Hong Kong dishes still high in sodium content, consumer watchdog says

Latest test shows levels unchanged when compared with studies conducted over past 10 years, with body calling on food industry to reduce salt usage

Sodium content levels in popular Hong Kong dishes have remained the same, according to the city’s consumer watchdog, after comparing them to findings from studies done over the past decade.

The Consumer Council conducted tests on 10 popular types of meal-on-one-plate dishes – where multiple food items are served on a single plate – using 100 samples.

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The dishes included fried noodles with preserved vegetables and spare ribs, spaghetti Bolognese, baked pork chop with rice, and steamed rice with barbecued pork.

The council found nearly half of the samples hit or exceeded 2,000mg of sodium, the upper limit of the daily intake recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The figures have not changed from those discovered in studies conducted over the last 10 years.

“We need the food trade and consumers to be aware that these kinds of meals are contributors to their sodium intake,” said Dr Samuel Yeung Tze-kiu, principal medical officer for the Centre for Food Safety. “They have to do something to rectify this situation.”

The latest study found fried noodles with preserved vegetables and spare ribs had the highest level, with an average of 470mg of sodium per 100g.

Braised E-Fu noodles had the second highest sodium content in the tests, averaging 410mg of sodium per 100g.

Meanwhile, spaghetti Bolognese, fried rice noodles with sliced beef, and baked pork chop with rice averaged between 340mg and 350mg of sodium per 100g.

The dish with the lowest average sodium level was steamed rice with bean curd sheet and roasted pork – at 230mg per 100g.

Sodium content for some dishes may appear comparatively low, but this is because the levels are calculated per 100g. The council warned diners to be cautious of serving sizes as larger portions equate to higher sodium levels.

Pre-packaged food was also examined as part of the study.

An analysis of the nutrition labels on eight pre-packaged food items found that seven samples exceeded the WHO’s recommended daily limit.

While “an appropriate amount of sodium is necessary” for normal bodily functions, Yeung said high sodium content could lead to a high risk of developing hypertension which could in turn result in high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, or kidney failure. He said it was up to both consumers and those within the food industry to take steps in order to reduce sodium content.

“Consumers are perfectly within their rights to ask restaurants to serve them meals with less sodium, less salt,” Yeung said.

Sauces and gravy were the main contributors to high sodium content in the tested dishes. Yeung recommended that consumers eliminate or reduce their consumption of sauces and gravy to lessen their sodium intake, and called on the food industry to reformulate their recipes to cut down on salt.

-This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: salt remains too high in popular local food

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