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Food Safety Focus (112th Issue, November 2015) – Food Incident Highlight

Sugar in Popular Chinese-style Beverages

Non-alcoholic beverages are the major contributor of total sugar intake for adults locally. Recently, the Centre for Food Safety has released the result of a joint study with the Consumer Council on sugar contents in certain popular Chinese-style non-alcoholic beverages consumed with meals. About 29% of the 101 non-prepackaged samples, mainly kumquat/citron honey, hawthorn drink, sour plum drink and watercress honey samples, are considered high in sugar, i.e. >7.5g per 100 mL. Large variations in sugar contents within beverage types were observed, and comparing with non-prepackaged counterparts, a higher mean sugar content in prepackaged drinks were noted in five out of seven types of beverages. There is much room for product reformulation in lowering the sugar contents, especially for prepackaged beverages.

The trade is encouraged to reduce sugar in beverages according to the Trade Guidelines for Reducing Sugars and Fats in Foods and offer "less sugar" or "no added sugar" options. Consumers can request "less sugar" or "no added sugar" versions when ordering, ask for syrup/ sugar to be served separately, and limit the consumption of drinks with high amounts of added sugars. A concerted effort of the trade and the public is needed if we want to reduce sugar consumption for the sake of better health.