Joint Centre for Food Safety (CFS) / Consumer Council (CC) Study
Nutrition Labelling Series Article 2

Canned Luncheon Meat, Canned Sardines and Prepackaged Sandwich Bread


1.        Canned luncheon meat and canned sardines are common food items used in making sandwiches. The second issue of Joint CFS/CC Nutrition Labelling Series studies the nutrition labels of canned luncheon meat, canned sardines and prepackaged sandwich bread for comparing their nutrient contents, especially the amount of sodium and fats.

2.        Salt, sauces and sodium-containing food additives such as sodium nitrite in canned food and/or prepackaged sandwich bread increase the sodium content of these food products. Eating too much sodium adds to the risk of 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 5 g of salt, i.e. about 1 level teaspoon ) a day .

3.         Meanwhile, pork, sardines as well as sauces and/or oil used in preparing canned food and/or bread provide certain amount of total fat and saturated fat. Too much fat will lead to overweight and obesity whereas excessive saturated fat increases the risk of heart diseases. WHO and FAO suggest the intake of total fat and saturated fat should be between 15 to 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.

4.        Taking reference to overseas experience, we have produced a set of shopping guide cards (or "shopping cards") to facilitate consumers to make effective use of nutrition labels. If the amount of sodium or fat contained in every 100g of prepackaged food exceeds 30% of the daily intake limit, such nutrient content is regarded as high. As such, a food item is classified as high in sodium if every 100g of such food contains more than 600 mg of sodium. Similarly, a food is classified as high in total fat if there is more than 20g of total fat in 100 g of the food.

The study

5.        In March 2010, we collected 17 types of canned luncheon meat, 16 canned sardines and 9 prepackaged sandwich bread samples from supermarkets and grocery shops. Nutrition information on the labels was examined.

6.        Main findings of the study are summarised below (Please also refer to Table 1):

Table 1: Summary of Main Results

  No. of samples Sodium range (mg/100g) Total fat range (g/100g) Saturated fat range (g/100g) No. of samples high in sodium No. of samples high in total fat
Canned luncheon meat 17 300 - 2230 7 - 29 1.5 - 11 14 5
Canned sardines 16 177.1 - 637 2 - 35.4 0.7 - 6.8 2 1
Prepackaged sandwich bread 9 215 - 561 2.4 - 7 0 - 3.6 0 0

Shopping Cards for Effective Use of Nutrition Labels

7.        We suggest the following steps to effectively making use of nutrition labels and choosing the appropriate food items:

More Information

8.        Selected analysis (10 samples of canned luncheon meat, 10 samples of canned sardines and 9 samples of prepackaged sandwich bread) is also published in the CHOICE MAGAZINE (Issue 402 released on 15 April)(Chinese only) . Full list of the results is also available on the website of Consumer Council:

9.        To obtain Shopping Cards, please contact the Communication Resource Unit during office hours. ( 8/F Fa Yuen Street, Municipal Services Building , 123A Fa Yuen Street , MongKok, Kowloon and Enquiry no. : 2381 6096)

Centre for Food Safety
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

April 2010