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Consumer protection in Hong Kong

What’s listed on Hong Kong tofu nutrition labels at odds with test results, watchdog says

Consumer Council looks at fat, protein and calcium levels in food rising in popularity among those conscious of their health and environment

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 October, 2018, 5:24pm
UPDATED : Monday, 15 October, 2018, 9:45pm

Hong Kong’s consumer watchdog has discovered significant discrepancies between the nutritional contents tofu manufacturers are labelling in their products and actual test results.

Rich in protein and calcium, tofu is a staple of Asian cooking and becoming more popular among those who are conscious of their health and the environment, the Consumer Council said on Monday.

“The samples in question have been referred to the Centre for Food Safety for follow-up,” the council’s Clement Chan Kam-wing said, referring to the government authority on the matter. “Some of the samples have also been taken off the shelves and sales discontinued.”

Also known as bean curd, tofu is made of curdled soy milk and water, and pressed into blocks. Pre-packaged tofu can be classified into hard and soft types.

The watchdog tested 40 samples of tofu sold in the city: six non-packaged and 34 pre-packaged soft and hard types.

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At least three samples exceeded the 20 per cent discrepancy allowance for protein between what is listed in a product’s nutritional labelling and the test results following centre guidelines. The three breached the level by 22, 31 and 39 per cent respectively.

The results for total fat content were even more glaring, with at least seven samples measuring discrepancies between 36 and 212 per cent.

Inaccurate nutritional information on product labelling could mislead consumers into purchasing products unsuitable for them
Clement Chan, Consumer Council

“Inaccurate nutritional information on product labelling could mislead consumers into purchasing products unsuitable for them,” Chan said.

While there is no local food standard to reference, Taiwan’s states that pre-packaged hard tofu should consist of at least 8 per cent protein, and at least 4.3 per cent for soft types. However, the average protein content of the hard pre-packaged tofu products analysed by the council was revealed to be just 6.5 per cent.

Major differences in protein content levels were observed among several samples, with the highest protein level at 9.4g per 100g and the lowest at 3.6g.

According to the centre, products containing at least 6g of protein per 100g of food were classified as a “source of protein”, while those with not less than 12g in 100g were considered “high in protein”.

Of the 40 samples, only 17 could be labelled a “source of protein”, while none qualified as “high in protein”.

Wide variations were also found in calcium levels. Some packaged samples contained calcium content as low as 16mg and others as high as 420mg.

Just 11 of the 40 samples met the centre’s “low fat” standard – anything below 3g of fat per 100g. But most fat content in the samples were unsaturated in nature, meaning they can help reduce bad cholesterol.