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Sugar Content in Popular Chinese-style Beverages Consumed with Meals

Abstract

1. Consuming too much sugar can lead to much energy intake and in turn increase the risk of obesity.  Frequent consumption of too much sugar can also lead to dental decay.  Non-alcoholic beverages were found to be the major contributors to the total sugar intake of the adult population in Hong Kong.  The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) and the Consumer Council (CC) thus has conducted a joint study, and tested the sugar content in some popular Chinese-style beverages consumed with meals in Hong Kong, as well as checked the nutrition labelling information of some of these prepackaged beverages.  This study aims to provide an update on the levels of total sugar in these beverages; inform the public on the sugar content in these drinks to enable informed choices; and to urge the food trade to take action to reduce the sugar content of beverages in the market, making reference to and work towards the sugar reduction target to be set by the International Advisory Panel on Reduction of Salt and Sugar in Food (IAP).

The Study

2. The study covered 101 samples (11 types) of hot and cold non-prepackaged Chinese-style beverages collected from Chinese restaurants, hot-pot restaurants, local cafés, fast-food shops and noodles and congee shops during May to July 2015.  These samples were tested for the sugar content by the Food Research Laboratory.  In addition, 40 samples (7 types) of prepackaged Chinese-style beverages were obtained from supermarkets and retail outlets, and their sugar content as declared on nutrition labelling were examined.  When a selected product had “low sugar”, “sugar-free” or “no added sugar” version, these versions might also be sampled.

3. The mean sugar content of the 11 types of non-prepackaged samples are summarised in the table below.  Out of these 101 non-prepackaged samples, 29 (29%) samples are considered high in sugar content as they contained more than 7.5 g of sugar per 100 mL.

Beverage types

No. of non-prepackaged samples

Total sugar
Mean [range] (g/100 mL)

羅漢果飲品
Luo han guo drink

5

1.2[0.027-5.1]

豆漿
Soy milk

31

4.9[0.35-7.5]

薏米飲品
Coix seed drink

5

5.3[2.4-8.6]

杏仁霜
Almond drink

5

5.6[2.6-13]

竹蔗飲品
Sugar cane drink

10

6.1[3.5-9.2]

菊花飲品
Chrysanthemum drink

5

6.2[3.0-8.7]

雪梨飲品
Pear drink

5

6.4[3.2-9.6]

西洋菜蜜
Watercress honey

10

8.4[5.4-13]

酸梅湯
Sour plum drink

10

8.6[5.1-16]

山楂飲品
Hawthorn drink

5

10[6.2-19]

柑桔/柚子蜜
Kumquat/citron honey

10

10[7.4-16]

Overall

101

6.6[0.027-19]

4 . The mean sugar content of the seven types of prepackaged samples are summarised in the table below.  Five out of these seven types of prepackaged beverages (including chrysanthemum (regular version), sugar cane, coix seed, pear and sour plum) were found to have mean sugar content higher than that of their non-prepackaged counterparts, suggesting that these prepackaged beverages may have a larger room for reformulation for lowering the sugar content.

Beverage types

No. of prepackaged samples

Total sugar
Mean [range] (g/100 mL)

豆漿(整體)
Soy milk (overall)

16

4.3[0.5-6.8]

-無糖豆漿
-Sugar-free soy milk

1

0.5

-無添加糖豆漿
-No added sugar soy milk

2

0.75[0.5-1.0]

-低糖豆漿
-Low sugar soy milk

7

4.6[3.8-5.0]

-普通配方豆漿
-Regular soy milk

6

5.8[4.65-6.8]

菊花飲品(整體)
Chrysanthemum drink (overall)

6

6.2[3.8-8.7]

-低糖菊花飲品
-Low sugar chrysanthemum drink

3

4.5[3.8-5.0]

-普通配方菊花飲品
-Regular chrysanthemum drink

3

7.9[7.0-8.7]

竹蔗飲品
Sugar cane drink

4

7.2[6.0-8.0]

薏米飲品
Coix seed drink

3

7.3[5.0-8.5]

雪梨飲品
Pear drink

5

8.2[4.1-9.7]

柑桔/柚子蜜
Kumquat/citron honey

3

8.4[6.1-10.7]

酸梅湯
Sour plum drink

3

12.2[10.4-13.5]

Overall

40

6.5[0.5-13.5]

Advice to the Public

 
Take note of the sugar content of beverages and choose the appropriate types of product to suit one’s need.
 
Request “less sugar” or “no added sugar” versions of beverages when ordering, or ask for syrup/sugar to be served separately.
 
Take note of the serving size of beverages.  Share the beverage with others or consume the beverage on several occasions if serving size exceeds the usual consumption amount.
 
Maintain a balanced and varied diet and limit the consumption of beverages with large amount of added sugar.

Advice to the Trade

 
Be aware that sugar content of the beverages on sale has public health implications. Through modification of preparation methods, ingredients and serving sizes, the Trade can make reference to the CFS trade guidelines for reducing sugar contents in food and beverages.
 
Take action to reduce sugar content of beverages, make reference to and work towards the sugar reduction target to be set by the IAP.
 
Provide nutrition information for non-prepackaged food and beverage items on menu, price list or other printed materials so that customers can make informed choice.
 
Offer “less sugar” or “no added sugar” options on menu and remind customers during ordering.
 
Provide “less sugar” or “no added sugar” versions of beverages upon customers’ requests, and serve syrup/sugar separately.

More Information

5 . The related article is published in the  CHOICE MAGAZINE (Issue 469, released on 16 November 2015 ) (Chinese only).

November 2015  
Risk Assessment Section 
Centre for Food Safety 
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

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Last Revision Date : 16-11-2015