Food Safety Bulletin (1st Issue of 2017)
Sugar Trap: How Much Do You Know About Sugars in Foods?
A wide variety of food and beverages are available in the market. As smart consumers, how can we correctly choose foods with lower sugars to avoid the trap of consuming too much sugar?
Sugars (consisting of monosaccharides and disaccharides) are simple carbohydrates which function is to provide energy for the body (1 gram of sugar equals 4 kcal of energy). Sugar-containing foods can be classified into two groups:
- Foods with naturally occurring sugars, e.g. honey (with glucose), milk (with lactose), fruits (with fructose); and
- Foods with added sugars, e.g. carbonated drinks, sweets and cakes.
In March 2015, the World Health Organization (“WHO”) issued a new set of guidelines with two strong recommendations:
- A reduced intake of free sugars throughout the life course; and
- In both adults and children, reduce the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of the daily energy intake.
This translates into less than 50 grams of free sugars (around 10 sugar cubes) per day for an individual with a daily energy intake of 2 000 kcal.
Free sugars are all monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods by manufacturers, cooks or consumers, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices.
Many people opt for juice drinks or lactic acid beverages, believing that they contain less sugar than carbonated drinks. The following chart, published by the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health, is a comparison of the sugar content of some beverages commonly consumed in Hong Kong for easy reference of the public.
Joyful @ Healthy Workplace http://www.joyfulhealthyworkplace.hk/zh/health.php
Some fruit drinks are actually high in sugars. Look at their nutrition labels and you may find that the sugars level of these beverages can be as high as some carbonated drinks. If they are heavily consumed, you may get too much free sugars. This can lead to dental caries and excessive intake of energy, which in turn increases the risks of overweight, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
People generally think that only very sweet food contains more sugars, but our taste buds can be tricked. Take sour condiments like ketchup as an example. To neutralise the acidity of tomatoes, plenty of sugars is required for ketchup production. And for seafood sauce and Thai chili sauce, they respectively contain 12.5 grams and 9.1 grams of sugars per tablespoon, approximately 20% of the maximum free sugars intake (50 grams) for the average adult per day.
Thai chili sauce:
|12.5 grams of sugars (around 2.5 sugar cubes)
|9.1 grams of sugars (around 2 sugar cubes)
To avoid absorbing too much sugars we should pay attention to the nutrition labels on prepackaged foods. Such words like “less sweet”, “slightly sweetened” or “no sugars added” printed on food products may not reflect the actual sugar content. Consumers should check the nutrition labels on foods for detailed nutrition information. Besides, foods with a “no sugars” or “low sugars” claim may contain high levels of other nutrients, such as high in fat or sodium. As such, nutrition claims can only serve as a quick reference.
Specific Conditions for “Low Sugars” and “No Sugars” Claims
Under the nutrition labelling scheme in Hong Kong, a prepackaged food with a “low sugars” or “no sugars” claim must satisfy the following conditions:
- Low sugars: containing not more than 5 grams of sugars per 100 grams of solid food / 100 mL of liquid food;
- No sugars: containing not more than 0.5 gram of sugars per 100 grams of solid food / 100 mL of liquid food.
Advice to the Public
- Refer to the nutrition labels on prepackaged foods for low-sugar options.
- Use standard measuring spoons (e.g. a teaspoon) to avoid adding extra sugar to food.
- When preparing food, use natural ingredients (e.g. pineapples, sweet peppers, corn kernels, cherry tomatoes) to add flavour in lieu of sugar or sugar-rich seasonings as far as possible.
- Patronise restaurants which have pledged to provide low-sugar diets, such as buying from or dining at Food Safety Charter signatories in participation of the “Reduce Salt, Sugar, Oil. We Do!” Programme.
- Request sugar or syrup to be served separately with the food when dining out. Drink plain water or tea instead of soft drinks, fruit juices with added sugar and other sugary beverages.
Parasites in Fish for Raw Consumption
We have increasingly high food expectations. Apart from attractive appearance of food, appetising taste and smell, we also seek the sensory pleasure derived from food texture. In fact, eating raw or undercooked fish has become a part of our food culture. However, as highlighted in this article, pathogenic parasites can enter the human body through the mouth. We should beware of the risks associated with the consumption of raw or undercooked fish.
Between August and September 2016, the press reported the presence of worm-like substances in a type of fish sushi sold at a local supermarket. The New England Journal of Medicine reported a case in Japan where multiple larvae of the parasite Anisakis were found penetrating the mucosa of the stomach of a woman who had consumed raw salmon two hours before the onset of chest and abdominal pain.
Parasites Commonly Found in Aquatic Products
Flukes and roundworms are parasites commonly found in aquatic products. Most of these parasites will only cause mild to moderate symptoms. In more severe cases, they may migrate to other vital organs in humans, resulting in serious complications .
Clonorchis sinensis (a fluke)
Clonorchis sinensis (Chinese or oriental liver fluke) is a type of foodborne parasites. Usually people get infected by ingesting the parasite through consumption of uncooked or undercooked food. The Chinese liver fluke can be found in freshwater fish, mainly cyprinid fish like grass carp and big head carp .
Light infections by the fluk e may cause mild or no symptoms, but infections with large numbers can result in loss of appetite, diarrhea , fever , bile duct obstruction and cirrhosis. In severe cases, the infection can lead to chronic jaundice and even cholangiocarcinoma . Clonorchis sinensis contributes to most of local human cases of enteric parasites .
Paragonimus westermani (a fluke)
Freshwater crabs may be contaminated and infected with Paragonimus westermani ( a lung fluke) . When a person consumes raw or undercooked crabs carrying Paragonimus westermani, the fluke may migrate from the intestines to the lungs and cause paragonimiasis. The initial symptoms are diarrhea and abdominal pain . This may be followed several days later by fever, chest pain, dizziness , and sometimes coughing up of blood. The lung fluke may even travel to the brain where it can cause symptoms of meningitis.
Anisakidae are one of the important fish-transmitted foodborne roundworms found in marine fish, crustaceans (e.g. shrimps) and cephalopods (e.g. squid s ). Humans may get anisakiasis if they consume raw or undercooked infected fish or other infected fishery products.
Roundworms may embed in the intestinal wall and cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and severe abdominal pain, and may sometimes penetrate the intestine.
Parasites Commonly Found in Aquatic Food
|Parasites||Physical Characteristics||Examples||Examples of Source Food|
|Flukes||Flat and about 1 to 2 cm long||Clonorchis sinensis||Raw sliced grass carp|
|Paragonimus westermani||“Drunken” crabs (crabs marinated with wine)|
|Roundworms||Round and may reach up to 20 cm in length||Angiostrongylus cantonensis||Golden apple snails|
Under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132), all food intended for sale for human consumption in Hong Kong, whether imported or locally produced, must be fit for human consumption.
Advice to Consumers
- Purchase fish from reliable and licensed stores.
- Ensure freshwater fish is adequately cooked, especially during hotpot or congee cooking.
- Do not consume uncooked or undercooked freshwater fish.
- Wine, vinegar, wasabi, mustard and spices cannot kill parasites, including Clonorchis sinensis.
- Use separate utensils for raw food and ready-to-eat food to avoid cross contamination.
- Susceptible populations like the elderly, young children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are advised against the consumption of raw fish.
- Cooking aquatic products thoroughly is the way to prevent diseases caused by parasites.
Get the Temperature Right
When cooking shellfish:
- Heating to an internal temperature of 90°C for 90 seconds is required.
- Remove the shells before cooking as they impede heat penetration. Alternatively, cook in boiling water until the shells open and boil for additional three to five minutes afterwards.
Spiced Red Lentil Soup
Picture of Chef Ms Connie HON Chun-yuk (left)
On damp days, you might feel dull and lose your appetite. Perhaps the pleasant smell of a spiced soup will whet your palate again. In this issue, Ms Connie HON Chun-yuk, chef of “Eat Well Canteen”, a signatory of the Food Safety Charter, will show us how the “Spiced Red Lentil Soup” is prepared.
|Preparation Steps||Small Tips, Big Wisdom|
|Purchase the ingredients from approved and reliable suppliers.||Upon receipt of the ingredients, check carefully to ensure their freshness. Vegetables should be refrigerated at 4ºC or below before use. Dry goods and herbs should be stored in lidded containers and kept at a proper temperature in a suitable environment.|
Rinsing and Cutting
|Rinse red lentils thoroughly. Chop asparagus and pumpkin skin into fine pieces after thorough rinsing.||Rinsing vegetables under running water can effectively reduce the risk of pesticide intake. Chopping ingredients into fine pieces can shorten the cooking time.|
Cooking and Stir-frying
|Bring water to the boil and add in red lentils. Heat a little rice bran oil in a wok and stir-fry mustard seeds, cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Then put in pumpkin skin and asparagus and stir-fry for several minutes.||Stir-frying herbs and spices can help release their unique flavours.|
|Put the stir-fried ingredients into the pot of red lentils. Cover the pot and continue to cook in low heat for about two hours. Lastly, add a sprinkle of oregano and a pinch of salt, stir well and ready to serve.||If the soup is not eaten immediately, it should be cooled quickly and refrigerated within two hours. Food left at room temperature for more than four hours should not be consumed.|
Food Safety Plan Corner
Spiced Red Lentil Soup
Ingredients for soup:
Red lentils, asparagus and pumpkin skin
Mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cumin and rice bran oil
- Take out dried red lentils that are properly stored in a lidded container , and asparagus and pumpkin skin that are kept at 4°C or below.
- Rinse red lentils, asparagus and pumpkin skin thoroughly and drain well.
- Chop asparagus and pumpkin skin into fine pieces.
- Bring water to the boil and add in red lentils.
- Heat a little rice bran oil in a wok and stir-fry mustard seeds, coriander seeds and cumin until fragrant. Then put in finely chopped pumpkin skin and asparagus and stir-fry for several minutes.
- Put the stir-fried ingredients into the pot of red lentils.
- Cover the pot and continue to cook in low heat for about two hours.
- Lastly, add a pinch of salt, stir well and ready to serve.
Briefing of Activities
51st Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo
The 51st Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo (“BPO”) held by The Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong at Victoria Park , Causeway Bay concluded successfully on 2 January 2017 after a period of 24 days . Did the booth of the Centre for Food Safety (“ CFS ”) catch your attention while you were busy shopping around in the vast venue?
Every year, the CFS will set up a booth at the BPO to feature a different thematic exhibition . The topics this year included the “5 Keys to Food Safety”, “Nutrition Labelling” and “Food Safety Advice for Pregnant Women”. Apart from providing relevant leaflets and pamphlets to visitors to the booth , the CFS staff were also present to explain the topics and distribute souvenirs to the public. Such interactions were conducive to more effective dissemination of food safety and healthy eating messages to the general public .
This year the CFS’ goal is to promote the theme of “Hong Kong’s Action on Salt and Sugar Reduction: Healthy Cooking Starts Small”. Here the word “small” has a double meaning, i.e. healthy cooking starts with “ small actions ” and “ small children ” . The CFS highlights the benefits of reducing dietary intake of salt and sugar to the public and the food trade , and provides some simple and practical tips in particular to encourage and help children to adopt a healthy eating habit with less salt and sugar from a young age. Earlier at the BPO, the theme was advanced through video shows at the CFS booth and games on the performance stage. It was hoped that through a more interactive approach, the public would find it easier to understand the idea and put it into practice.
Welcome to Health Education Exhibition and Resource Centre
To promote food safety among the public and the food trade, the CFS holds thematic exhibitions in FEHD markets, public housing estates and shopping malls in different districts on a regular basis. In addition, a large-scale exhibition “Food Safety, Environmental Hygiene and You”, which features advanced exhibition facilities with multi-media presentation techniques, is staged at the Health Education Exhibition and Resource Centre (“ HEERC ”) adjacent to Exit A1 of Tsim Sha Tsui MTR Station. The topics covered include:
- Food Additives
- Food Labelling
- Genetically Modified Food
- High Risk Food
- Food Safety Plan
Whether you are a diet-conscious person or a food trader concerned about food safety, all are welcome to visit the HEERC during its opening hours. Admission is free.
Address: Block S4, Kowloon Park, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday , 8:45 am to 6:15 pm
Sunday , 11:00 am to 9:00 pm
Closed on: Mondays , Thursdays and public holidays
Food Safety Q&A
Safe Handling of Vegetables
Vegetables are essential to a balanced diet. They are major sources of dietary fibres, vitamins and minerals. Not only can vegetables promote gastrointestinal health, they can also reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases and some cancers.
When growing vegetables, farmers often use pesticides to reduce crop damage inflicted by insect pests and fungi in order to increase crop yields. As a result, a large variety of quality vegetables at reasonable price are available in the market.
However, if pesticides are not properly used, such as excessive application in vegetable production or not allowing sufficient time for pesticides to break down to a safe level before harvesting, consumers may ingest excessive pesticide residues after consumption of vegetables and their health may be affected.
Advice to the Public
- Wash vegetables thoroughly under clean running water.
- When appropriate, scrub produces with hard surfaces with a clean brush to remove dirt and substances including pesticides and contaminants from the surface and the crevices .
- Use of soaps, special detergents or produce washes is not recommended.
- Keep a balanced diet. Eat a variety of vegetables as part of a healthy diet.
- Seek medical advice immediately if feeling unwell after eating vegetables.
Truth against Fallacy
Sodium: Facts and Myths
The terms “salt” and “sodium” are often used interchangeably. Technically speaking, table salt is a chemical compound known as sodium chloride. One gram of table salt contains 400 milligrams of sodium. The WHO recommends a maximum sodium intake of 2 000 milligrams daily (i.e. slightly less than one level teaspoon of table salt) for the average adult.
Sodium is required to keep our body functioning. However, overconsumption of salt can increase the risk of developing hypertension, leading to stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Sodium is a mineral naturally present in a wide range of food and drinking water. Salt is added to food, as it not only enhances flavours but can also inhibit microbial growth and improve the product texture. Table salt is the main but not the sole source of dietary sodium. Apart from table salt, sodium-containing condiments and additives (e.g. soya sauce and oyster sauce) are key contributors of sodium in our diet. Moreover, processed foods such as bacon and sausages are often added with sodium-containing preservatives. Sodium can also be found in the form of additives in mild-tasting food products, like bread, biscuits and cereals.
People not suffering from any non-communicable disease or those at a younger age need not worry about dietary sodium intake.
Excessive sodium consumption can raise blood pressure at any age. According to the WHO, reducing sodium intake can help lower blood pressure in adults with or without hypertension and decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Sea salt is lower in sodium than table salt by weight and is therefore a healthier alternative.
Sea salt is a type of table salt. The sodium content of both is the same by weight. However, sea salt is often found in the shape of larger crystals and packed more loosely than table salt. Hence, a teaspoon of sea salt may weigh less than a teaspoon of table salt and contain less sodium.
There is no sodium in sauces and condiments that do not taste salty.
Not all sodium-rich foods taste salty, since other ingredients such as sugar could mask the flavour of salt. Many sauces and condiments that we usually use are high in sugar. Only by reading the nutrition labels carefully can we identify the sodium levels of different foods.
True or False
- If a prepackaged food has a “sugars free” claim marked or made on its nutrition label, it contains no sugar at all.
- “ Monosodium glutamate (MSG) free ” is a nutrient content claim.
- A prepackaged food beyond its “best before” date is definitely unsafe for consumption.
- Potentially hazardous food should be kept at or below 4 oC, or at or above 60 oC, to prevent speedy multiplication of microorganisms in the temperature danger zone.
Enquiries and Subscription
Printed copies of the Food Safety Bulletin can be obtained from the CRU at 8/F, Fa Yuen Street Municipal Services Building, 123A Fa Yuen Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon. For enquiries, please call 2381 6096. The public may also visit the CFS website ( www.cfs.gov.hk ) for the online version.