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Joint Consumer Council Study: Sugar Content in Local Sweet Soups

Abstract

1. Sugar is one type of carbohydrates. It can be naturally occurred or added to food and beverages. Sugar added to sweet soups can enhance the sweetness. However, 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. 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 sweet soups in Hong Kong, as well as checked the nutrition labelling information of some of these prepackaged sweet soups. This study aims to provide an update on the levels of sugar in these sweet soups; inform the public on the sugar content and energy value in these sweet soups to enable informed choices; and to urge the food trade to take action to reduce the sugar content of sweet soups in the market.

2. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), free sugars mean all mono- and di-saccharides added to foods by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrup and fruit juices in diets. WHO strongly recommended that both adults and children should reduce the intake of free sugars to less than ten per cent of total energy intake (less than 50g of free sugars per day for someone having a 2,000-kcal diet).

The Study

3. The study covered 100 samples (10 types) of non-prepackaged sweet soups collected from sweet soup shops, dessert shops, Chinese restaurants and soybean product shops during April to May 2016. These samples were tested for the sugar content by the Food Research Laboratory. Moreover, energy values of the composite sample of the same type of sweet soups were also tested. In addition, 11 samples (5 types) of prepackaged sweet soups were obtained from supermarkets and retail outlets, and their sugar content and energy value as declared on nutrition labelling were examined.

4. The mean sugar content and the energy value of the composite sample of the 10 types of non-prepackaged sweet soups are summarised in the table below. Sugar content of mango sago dessert with pomelo is ranked the highest whereas soybean curd dessert is ranked the lowest. Sugar content varied quite widely within certain sweet soup types (e.g. bean curd sheet sweet soup with egg, sago sweet soup with coconut milk and mung bean sweet soup). This reflects the possibility of the trade to reduce the sugar content in these sweet soups. In addition, energy value of walnut sweet soup and sesame sweet soup were higher than that of other sweet soup types.

Sweet soup types

no. of non-prepackaged samples

Total sugar

Mean [range]

(g/100 g)

Energy value of composite sample [range] (kcal/100g)

Mango sago dessert with pomelo

( 楊枝甘露 )

10

11 [8.9-12]

66

Sweet potato sweet soup

( 番薯糖水 )

10

10 [8.8-12]

66

Mung bean sweet soup

( 綠豆沙 )

10

9.5 [5.9-13]

71

Sesame sweet soup

( 芝麻糊 )

10

8.8 [7.1-11]

98

Mixed bean sweet soup

( 喳咋 )

10

8.4 [6.5-11]

82

Walnut sweet soup

( 合桃露 )

10

8.1 [6.4-9.2]

130

Red bean sweet soup

( 紅豆沙 )

10

7.9 [5.7-10]

66

Sago sweet soup with coconut milk

( 椰汁西米露 )

10

7.3 [4.3-11]

86

Bean curd sheet sweet soup with egg

( 腐竹雞蛋糖水 )

10

6.0 [4.3-10]

83

Soybean curd dessert

( 豆腐花 )

6

5.4 [2.5-7.6]

59

4 (no added sugar)*

0.40 [0.17-0.53]

Overall

100

8.0 [0.17-13]

81 [59-130]

*From the study on “Sugar content in Chinese-style Beverages” in 2015, sugar content of ‘no added sugar’ soybean drinks samples was not more than 1.0g/100g.

5 . The mean sugar content and mean energy value of the five types of prepackaged sweet soups are summarised in the table below. Two types of prepackaged sweet soups (soybean curd dessert and mixed bean sweet soup) were found to have mean sugar content higher than that of their non-prepackaged counterparts. There was not much difference in the mean sugar content of prepackaged and non-prepackaged sesame sweet soup. On the other hand, prepackaged red bean sweet soup and mung bean sweet soup were found to have mean sugar content lower than that of their non-prepackaged counterparts. The findings suggested that both prepackaged and non-prepackaged products might have rooms for reformulation for lowering the sugar content.

Sweet

soup types

no. of prepackaged samples

Total sugar

Mean [range]

(g/100 g)

Energy value

Mean [range]

(kcal/100g)

Soybean curd dessert

( 豆腐花 )

2

9.9 [8.9-10.8]

69 [66-72]

Mixed bean sweet soup

( 喳咋 )

2

9.0 [8.9-9.0]

85 [82-87]

Sesame sweet soup

( 芝麻糊 )

2

8.7 [8.6-8.8]

83 [79-87]

Mung bean sweet soup

( 綠豆沙 )

2

8.0 [7.8-8.1]

68 [65-70]

Red bean sweet soup

( 紅豆沙 )

3

7.0 [4.8-8.8]

72 [65-81]

Overall

11

8.4 [4.8-10.8]

75 [65-87]

Advice to the Public

  • Maintain a balanced and varied diet and limit the consumption of foods and drinks with high amount of added sugar and high energy value, including sweet soups.
  • Take note of the sugar content and energy value of sweet soups. Choose the appropriate types of product to suit one’s need by making reference to the result of this study and the Nutrition Information Inquiry System (NIIS) from the CFS.
  • Request other ingredients (such as brown sugar powder, sugar syrup) to be served separately during ordering. Add suitable amount of sugar to sweet soups (e.g. soybean curd dessert) if necessary after tasting.
  • Take note of the portion size of sweet soups. Share the sweet soups of large portion size with others.
  • Read the nutrition label and note the sugar content, energy value and portion size when buying prepackaged sweet soups.
  • When making sweet soups at home, limit the amount of sugar added. Consider prepare different types of sweet soups and sweet soups with lower energy values (e.g. red bean sweet soup).

Advice to the Trade

  • Be aware of the sugar content and energy value of the sweet soup on sale as it has public health implications.
  • Through modification of preparation methods, ingredients or serving sizes, the trade can make reference to the CFS’ “Trade Guidelines for Reducing Sugars and Fats in Foods ” for reducing sugar content in sweet soups.
  • Provide nutrition information for non-prepackaged sweet soups on menu, price list or other printed materials so that customers can make informed choice.
  • Whenever practical, do not add additional sugar to sweet soups (e.g. soybean curd dessert) before serving. Serve sweet soups and other ingredients (such as brown sugar powder, sugar syrup) separately, so that customers can add those ingredients based on their preferences.

More Information

6 . The related article is published in the CHOICE MAGAZINE (Issue 480, released on 17 October 2016) (Chinese only).

 

October 2016
Risk Assessment Section
Centre for Food Safety
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

 

 

 

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Last Revision Date : 19-10-2016