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Hongkongers warned to avoid unhealthy mooncakes

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags: Food safety, Vegetable fats and oils, Cooking oil, Nutrition

Hong Kong authorities have warned the public against buying mooncakes with high levels of sugar, fat and sodium ahead of the Mid-Autumn festival later this month.

The Centre for Food Safety instead advised Hongkongers to look out for seasonal cakes with healthier nutrition scores after releasing the results of an analysis of 50 unnamed brands. 

So-called ice-skin or snowy mooncakes contained the highest levels of sugar compared with other varieties, the study found. 

The highest amount was found in a 60-gram snowy brand with a lemonade flavour which contained 42.7 grams of sugar per 100-gram serving – equivalent to half an adult’s ­recommended daily intake. 

The second-highest sugar level was found in a traditional mooncake containing 37.6 grams per 100 grams, followed by a Chinese ham mooncake (35.8 grams) and a custard variety (24.9 grams). 

To offset the energy intake in one custard-flavoured mooncake, consumers would have to swim freestyle for 50 minutes or cycle for 40 minutes, according to the centre’s principal medical ­officer, Samuel Yeung Tze-kiu. 

Dietician Sylvia Lam See-way, a member of the government’s Committee on Reduction of Salt and Sugar in Food, told the South China Morning Post​ all types of mooncake now contained extremely high levels of sugar. 

In one day, consumers would be better off with either just a quarter of a traditional mooncake or one whole mini snowy mooncake​,” she said. 

The study also highlighted brands containing large amounts of fat and sodium—the worst offender containing 376 mg of salt per 100-gram serving, plus 27 grams of fat. 

At least nine brands tested in the study made claims of being low in sugar, sodium and fat, meaning their sugar levels did not exceed five grams per 100 grams of serving. 

The centre also tested 130 mooncake samples for chemical, microbiological and nutritional content. They all passed the tests. 

More stories from China…

China ramps up inspections of regional food safety authorities

Beijing will send inspectors to provincial governments to review their food safety records as part of a wide-reaching annual assessment of progress.

Inspections

The General Office of the State Council this week published a circular charging the food safety committee with overseeing the review and tasking an office under the committee to work with other authorities to conduct the inspections.

Local governments will also be asked to evaluate their own performances, and a final assessment report will be issued by the central authorities. In it, the performance of the local governments will be assigned one of three grades.

Officials from the governments that receive the lowest ratings will be summoned to talks with the food safety committee, and may even have to face the leaders of the State Council if necessary.

Officials seen to have performed poorly will be disqualified from any awards or honorary titles, the circular added.

Market update: Edible oils in China

Edible oil consumption has increased in China at a compound rate of over 15% since 2005, according to a new report on the market. 

Oils

Last year, Chinese consumers got through some 34m tonnes of edible vegetable oil at a time when increasing per-capita income and significant dietary structure changes have consistently buoyed demand. 

According to Research & Markets, the overall annual import value of oil crops and vegetable oil exceeded US$50bn in China last year. Of this, vegetable oil imports grew by 4% last year to 6.8m tonnes, while Chinese soybean imports reached was 81.7m tonnes—an year-on-year increase of 14.6%, valued at US$34.8bn. 

Tens of thousands of processors are now operating in China, with an annual production capacity of over 200m tons. The lion’s share is occupied by the top 10 manufacturers, including Yihai Kerry, Cofco Corporation and Chinatex. 

With sizeable domestic crop supplies, prices have slumped since 2012, with soybean oil, rapeseed oil and palm oil all recently having experienced their lowest prices for five years. 

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