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)
Luo han guo drink
5 1.2[0.027-5.1]
Soy milk
31 4.9[0.35-7.5]
Coix seed drink
5 5.3[2.4-8.6]
Almond drink
5 5.6[2.6-13]
Sugar cane drink
10 6.1[3.5-9.2]
Chrysanthemum drink
5 6.2[3.0-8.7]
Pear drink
5 6.4[3.2-9.6]
Watercress honey
10 8.4[5.4-13]
Sour plum drink
10 8.6[5.1-16]
Hawthorn drink
5 10[6.2-19]
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)
Soy milk (overall)
16 4.3[0.5-6.8]
-Sugar-free soy milk
1 0.5
-No added sugar soy milk
2 0.75[0.5-1.0]
-Low sugar soy milk
7 4.6[3.8-5.0]
-Regular soy milk
6 5.8[4.65-6.8]
Chrysanthemum drink (overall)
6 6.2[3.8-8.7]
-Low sugar chrysanthemum drink
3 4.5[3.8-5.0]
-Regular chrysanthemum drink
3 7.9[7.0-8.7]
Sugar cane drink
4 7.2[6.0-8.0]
Coix seed drink
3 7.3[5.0-8.5]
Pear drink
5 8.2[4.1-9.7]
Kumquat/citron honey
3 8.4[6.1-10.7]
Sour plum drink
3 12.2[10.4-13.5]
Overall 40 6.5[0.5-13.5]

Advice to the Public

Advice to the Trade

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