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Consumer protection in Hong Kong

High sodium content found in popular luncheon meat, canned sausages, Hong Kong watchdog warns consumers

Consumer Council says one luncheon meat sample even contained antibiotics

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 June, 2017, 3:28pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 June, 2017, 1:13am

The Consumer Council has warned Hongkongers of high sodium levels found in luncheon meat and sausages, with the majority of 33 samples it tested exceeding a standard used by the watchdog.

In an extreme case, the actual sodium content of a canned sausage sample was found to be 560 times higher than its indicated amount. Antibiotics were also found in one luncheon meat sample.

The meat products are popular ingredients in dishes at local restaurants and cha chaan tengs, or tea houses, in the city.

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The UK’s Food Standards Agency considers food with a sodium level of more than 600 milligrams per 100 grams to have high sodium content. Twenty-eight out of the watchdog’s 33 tested samples fell under this category.

The Consumer Council said on Thursday that a sample of Maling premium pork luncheon meat contained animal drug residues in the form of antibiotics sulfadimidine, with the level at 199.3 mcg/kg.

This could be due to the frequent use of this component in feeding farm animals, said Dr Ho Pak-Leung of the University of Hong Kong’s department of microbiology.

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He added that sulfadimidine could lead to allergic reactions for around 3 to 6 per cent of people, who could experience symptoms such as hives, rash and swollen face after eating those meat products.

Meanwhile, the sodium level in a sample of Princes Hot Dogs 8’s was 560 times higher than the amount indicated on its nutrition label. The label stated the sodium content was 1.5 milligrams per 100g, but the actual level stood at around 851 milligrams per 100g.

In its response, the brand merchandiser said it was a mistake and promised to revise the label content accordingly.

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The council’s tests consisted of 25 luncheon meat samples and eight sausage samples.

Sodium content in the luncheon meat samples, which weighed between 200 grams and 397 grams, ranged from 517mg to 1,180mg per 100g. Six of these samples were also found to contain higher levels of sodium than indicated on their nutrition labels.

For the eight sausage samples, the sodium levels were between 707mg and 851mg per 100g.

The World Health Organisation recommends a sodium intake level of less than 2,000mg per day.

“In general, processed meat products are not that good for one’s health,” the council’s chief executive Gilly Wong said. “We advise people to balance their diets with more vegetables and examine the nutrition labels of those meat products carefully before purchasing them.”

Excessive sodium consumption has been linked to increased risks of hypertension or heart diseases.

The consumer watchdog said it had sent the results to the Hong Kong Centre for Food Safety, adding that the centre was following up on the antibiotics case.