The Consumer Council warned on Wednesday that some of Hong Kong's most-loved foods contain potentially harmful levels of sodium and should be eaten only in moderation, while some sauces should be dropped entirely.
In a collaboration with the Centre for Food Safety, the council tested 100 samples, covering 10 types of “siu mei” – spit-roasted meat – and “lo mei”, another Chinese-style braised food in a special salty sauce called “lo sui”.
The council said the highest salt content was found in a roasted pork sample from a restaurant in Sheung Wan, which had 1,400 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams of food.
Eating a whole lunchbox of about 170g of roasted pork with rice there could see the sodium content reach about 2,400mg, the council said, exceeding the daily intake limit of 2,000mg recommended by the World Health Organisation.
Dr Henry Ng Chi-cheung, principal medical officer at the centre, said absorbing too much sodium could lead to high blood pressure, while over a longer period it might cause heart disease and increase chances of a stroke.
“We should pay attention to what kind of food is containing higher sodium levels, and to having a balanced diet,” he said.
The food safety authority studied 10 samples of 10 different types of siu mei and lo mei sold in local supermarkets and restaurants: barbecue pork, roasted suckling pig, roasted pork, roasted goose, roasted duck, soy sauce chicken, lo sui goose, lo sui goose intestine, lo sui goose gizzard, and “red sausage”.
The study found 33, or more than 30 per cent, of the food samples were high in salt according to the centre’s guidelines, meaning they contained more than 600mg/100g.
All 10 samples of red sausage tested were high in salt based on the guidelines, the council said.
The report said red sausage samples had the highest sodium content on average, with 1,000mg/100g, followed by roasted pork, barbecue pork, and lo sui goose gizzard.
Adding sauce to barbecue pork increased the sodium content by 17 per cent, while dipping lo sui goose into the sauce raised levels by 38 per cent.
Nora Tam Fung-yee, chairman of the council’s research and testing committee, advised food lovers to ask restaurants not to give them sauce when ordering such food.
“The study this time is very clear. If you don’t add sauce, then you can greatly reduce sodium content in food,” she said. “Then you can allow yourself to eat more kinds of food.”