Cheese prices rocket, but it's not all bad news

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 April, 2010, 12:00am

Cheese topped the list of price increases among 200 top-selling items last year, soaring 25 per cent, the Consumer Council found. This was more than eight times the average 3 per cent increase of the items sold by supermarket chains ParknShop, Wellcome and Vanguard.

The survey divided the products into 12 categories. The prices of all but two increased, but the average overall was much lower than in 2008, when prices rose 13 per cent.

By category, the prices of milk powder and baby products showed the biggest increase. The dairy and yogurt category, which includes cheese, followed, at 7.6 per cent.

Consumer Council chief executive Connie Lau Yin-hing said the soaring price of cheese could be attributed partly to an appreciation in the currency of Australia, a key source of imports.

Among subcategories, nuts, milk powder and packaged rice had some of the biggest increases, with 10.5 per cent, 10.3 and 9.2 respectively.

'Many people from the mainland buy milk powder in Hong Kong, and their demand could have lifted prices,' Lau said.

The vice-chairman of the council's publicity and community relations committee, Ron Hui Shu-yuen, said the higher Australian dollar also made rice from that country more expensive.

But for those who like wine with their cheese, some relief came from a plunge in the price of red and white wines of 9.7 per cent, the biggest drop in all the subcategories.

Meanwhile, a study by the council warns people to beware of luncheon meat. Seven out of 10 samples of canned luncheon meat were high in sodium - containing more than 0.6 gram per 100 grams of food.

The saltiest one, Ma Ling pork luncheon meat, contains 2.2 grams of sodium in three slices of meat. The amount exceeds the World Health Organisation's recommended limit on the daily intake of sodium.

'If you eat it with instant noodles, then you would have way too much sodium,' Hui said.

An earlier study by the council found one instant noodle pack contained as much as four grams of salt, double the WHO's daily limit.

Too much salt in one's diet increases the chance of hypertension and heart disease, Hui said.

Two canned sardine samples, Golden Dragon brand XO sardines and Red Marubean Japanese sardines in tomato sauce, also had high salt contents. Eating a can of Red Marubean sardines in oil would account for half the daily limit for fat as recommended by the WHO.

Over the limit

The worst offenders* (per 100 grams)

Ma Ling Pork Luncheon Meat: 2.2g of sodium

Hormel Foods SPAM Classic: 29g of fat

Red Marubean Brand Japanese Sardinesin Tomato Sauce: 0.6g of salt

* WHO recommends daily limit of two grams of sodium and 60 grams of fat

Supermarket items with the greatest price changes

Cheese: +24.7%

Nuts: +10.5%

Milk powder: +10.3%

Rice: +9.2%

Potato chips: +8.2%

Biscuits: +7.9%

Bread: +6.6%

Noodles: +6.2%

Cooking oil: -4.8%

Wine: -9.7%

SOURCE: CONSUMER COUNCIL