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Joint Consumer Council's Article Series on Nutrition Labelling
Launching Article: Instant Noodles

The new Nutrition Labelling Regulation will come into force on 1 July 2010 . The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) and the Consumer Council (CC) are launching a new article series to facilitate consumers in making good use of nutrition labels to choose healthier prepackaged food products. In this launching article, we will demonstrate how useful nutrition label 1+7 can be when we come to choosing instant noodles for our family.

Background

2. In Hong Kong , the Food and Drugs (Composition and Labelling) (Amendment: Requirements for Nutrition Labelling and Nutrition Claim) Regulation 2008 (“the Amendment Regulation”) will come into force on 1 July 2010 . Upon that time, all applicable prepackaged food products will have to provide nutrition labels setting out the contents of “1+7” (i.e. energy plus 7 nutrients specified for labelling, namely protein, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, carbohydrates, sugars and sodium).

3. As instant noodles are often deep-fried in oil (especially palm oil), and its seasoning contains salt and/or other sauces, they generally have relatively high levels of sodium, total fat and saturated fat. In view of this, this study focuses on the contents of these three nutrients.

4. Eating too much sodium increases the risk of developing high blood pressure. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations suggest that sodium intake should be less than 2000 mg (or 5g of salt, i.e. about 1 level teaspoon of salt) a day.

5. Eating too much fat is linked to increased risk of overweight and obesity whereas eating too much saturated fat increases the risk of developing heart diseases. WHO and FAO suggest that the intake of total fat and saturated fat should be 15-30% and less than 10%, respectively, of the daily energy intake. For example, an individual with a daily energy intake of 2000 kcal should limit the intake of total fat to not more than 60 g (about 4 tablespoons of oil) whereas the intake of saturated fat should be less than 20 g a day.

The study

6. A total of 48 instant noodle samples (including 25 bag type instant noodles袋裝即食麵 , 18 cup noodles杯麵 and 5 sauce-mixing type instant noodles即食撈麵) were collected from supermarkets and grocery shops, and the information listed on the nutrition labels was examined. All noodle samples came with seasoning, and the energy and nutrient values listed on the nutrition labels were based on the content of the whole product, i.e. noodles as well as seasoning.

7. Salient findings of the study are summarised below:

  • The instant noodles contained 834 to 5800 mg of sodium per 100 g of food. For 13 out of 48 samples, c onsumption of the whole package of soup noodles and drinking all the soup would account for over 100% of the daily intake limit for sodium.
  • The instant noodles contained 0 to 30.5 g of total fat per 100 g of food. 3 cup noodle samples were found to contain more than 30 g of total fat per package, which would account for more than 50% of the daily intake limit for total fat for a 2000-kcal diet.
  • The instant noodles contained 0 to 12.2 g of saturated fat per 100 g of food. 9 samples of instant noodles (3 bag type instant noodles, 5 cup noodles and 1 sauce-mixing type instant noodles) were found to contain 10 g or more of saturated fat per package, which would account for 50% or more of the daily intake limit for saturated fat for a 2000-kcal diet.
  • The levels of total fat and saturated fat were found to be generally lower among those products with descriptions of “non-fried” or similar term on their package as compared with those without such descriptions. The level of saturated fat would increase if the noodles are deep-fried in palm oil or if palm oil, lard and/or butter are added as ingredients of seasoning.
  • As instant noodles are mainly made with wheat flour and may be deep-fried in oil during the production process, they can be a significant source of energy. While an average bowl of steamed rice can provide about 230 kcal of energy, a whole packet of instant noodles can provide as much as about 540 kcal.

A summary of result is listed in the following table:

 

No. of samples

Sodium range (mg/100g)

Total fat range (g/100g)

Saturated fat range (g/100g)

Bag type instant noodles

25

840-3133

0-23.7

0-12.2

Cup noodles

18

881-5800

5.8-30.5

1.1-12

Sauce-mixing type instant noodles

5

834-1547

12-24.5

5-10.1

Overall

48

834-5800

0-30.5

0-12.2

Advice to the Public

  • When purchasing instant noodles, read the nutrition labels, compare the nutritional content of different products and choose the ones lower in sodium, total fat and saturated fat. In addition, choose instant noodles that have not been deep-fried to reduce total fat and saturated fat intake .
  • When preparing instant noodles, reduce the use of seasoning (including soup powder, seasoning oil and sauce).
  • When co nsuming soup noodles, drink less soup.
  • If time and circumstances allow, make a bowl of low fat, low sodium and nutritionally balanced noodles using plain noodles that have not been deep-fried nor seasoned (e.g. udon, rice vermicelli, macaroni etc) and adding some fresh vegetables, lean meat slices and a little seasoning.

 

March 2010
Risk Communication Section
Centre for Food Safety
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

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Last Revision Date : 16-03-2010