[Local data] Free sugar content in pre-packaged foods and beverages in Hong Kong

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In Hong Kong, free sugars are found to be highly prevalent in pre-packaged foods, yet the data on free sugar content is limited. A local study including 18,784 pre-packaged foods from 14 major food groups and 54 minor food groups has been conducted, to assess their free sugar levels and identify the major types of free sugars present.

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  • Most products (64.5%) contained at least one free sugar ingredient (FSI) (n = 12,118)
    • Sucrose (either in solid or syrup forms) was the mostly used FSI (54.7%)
  • All major food groups contained products with FSI
    • Including food groups that were not often related to free sugars
    • E.g., ‘Fish and fish products’ (46.0%), ‘Meat and meat products’ (73.8%)
  • The overall median (interquartile range) free sugar content was 3.2 (0.0-17.2) g per 100 g or 100 mL
    • ‘Sugars, honey and related products’ had the highest median free sugar level (80.0; 72.0-96.0)
    • ‘Confectionery’ had the second-highest median free sugar level (41.2; 25.4-58.9)
    • ‘Fruit’ had a large difference in the median total sugar (44.0; 17.0-62.7) and free sugar content (1.0; 0.0-16.6), implying that most sugars in this category were naturally occurring
    • The median free sugar content of ‘Fruit and vegetable juices’ (10.0; 8.3-11.5) was higher than that of ‘Soft drinks’ (8.5; 6.0-10.6)
  • Free sugars constituted 65.8 ± 43.4% of the total sugars in all products
    • Free sugar percentage ranged from 1.8 ± 11.9% (‘Edible oils and oil emulsions’) to 98.7 ± 11.2% (‘Sugars, honey and related products’)
    • Products claimed to be ‘healthy’ such as cereal bars and fruit juices were found to contain high levels of total sugars (26.0 ± 8.6 and 9.8 ± 3.8 g per 100 g or 100 mL) and a large proportion of total sugars as free sugars (76.4 ± 23.7% and 100.0 ± 0.0% respectively)
       

Link to the full report:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8540970/pdf/nutrients-13-03404.pdf
 

Reference:

Chan L et al. Total and free sugar levels and main types of sugars used in 18,784 local and imported pre-packaged foods and beverages sold in Hong Kong. Nutrients. 2021;13(10):3404.
 

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WYE-EM-194-NOV-21