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Nora Tam (left), chairwoman of the Consumer Council’s research and testing committee, and Gilly Wong, the watchdog’s chief executive. Photo: Handout

Hong Kong watchdog warns against health claims of pricey chicken essence, says cheap alternatives more effective

  • Consumers can get as much protein from HK$1,700 worth of chicken essence products for less than HK$6 eating simple alternatives, new report finds
  • Significant errors in product labels for certain brands were also discovered, with sodium and protein contents misrepresented

Hong Kong shoppers spending up to HK$1,700 (US$217) on chicken essence products for their fill of protein can achieve the same result for less than HK$6 by eating the animal’s meat, eggs or drinking regular milk, the city’s consumer watchdog has found.

The Consumer Council on Monday revealed the results of its study of 15 pre-packaged chicken essence products, which had a wide range of prices from HK$188 to HK$990 per box, or HK$11.75 to HK$133 per serving.

Considered a potent health food by some, chicken essence is popular with pregnant women and consumers looking to boost their energy levels and immune system.

The watchdog said if consumers hoped to absorb higher amounts of protein, chicken meat – especially skinless thighs – or milk and eggs were more cost-effective alternatives.

Chicken essence is coveted by some for its supposed health benefits. Photo: Shutterstock

For example, a 100-gram serving of skinless chicken thighs would provide 26.3 grams of protein and cost HK$5.83. But purchasing chicken essence to receive the same amount of protein would cost eight times more at HK$51.94. The cost would be even higher at HK$1,710 for vegan chicken essence.

In another example, based on an adult’s diet of 2,000 kcal and 60 grams of protein a day, eating boiled eggs daily instead of chicken essence would cost HK$9.27 for a 20-gram meal portion. For consumers who chose chicken thighs, the cost would only be HK$4.82 per meal every day. This is well below the HK$1,301 cost of vegan chicken essence.

Nora Tam Fung-yee, chairwoman of the council’s research and testing committee, said healthy individuals including the elderly, pregnant or post-partum women would be able to absorb enough nutrients through a balanced diet.

“Chicken essence should not be used to replace regular meals,” she said.

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The council found three samples had not complied with nutrition labelling guidelines as their actual protein and sodium contents were inconsistent with declared amounts. The relevant information has been submitted to the Centre for Food Safety for follow-up.

In one example, the protein content of Wang Chao Chicken Essence was found to be about 22.9 per cent lower than the labelled value. The Post has reached out to the company for comment.

The sodium contents of Royal Medic Pure Chicken Essence and Noto Black-bone Chicken Essence were found to be 22.5 per cent and 29.9 per cent higher than the labelled values respectively.

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Royal Medic said it has tested three batches of products including the one tested by the council and found the sodium content met the regulatory tolerance limit.

The distributor of Noto said the label information on the packaging was based on the value reported by the laboratory with certified specifications. It added that it would replace the printed packaging of the products on shelves to comply with the regulations.

The council also reminded individuals with hypertension, chronic kidney disease, digestive system disorder as well as post-surgical patients to consult doctors or registered dietitians on their suitability to consume chicken essence.