Pastries lovers should be aware of trans fats intake while savouring their favourite snacks. In the latest test on trans fats level in food conducted jointly by the Consumer Council and Centre for Food Safety (CFS), pastries were found to contain the highest average level of trans fats.
However, the overall average results showed that the trans fats level in food samples decreased significantly when compared to three similar tests conducted in previous years.
In this latest test, the highest average trans fats level was found in the types of croissant and puff pastry. In the former type, the sample containing the highest level of trans fats reached 1.1g trans fats per 100g. In the puff pastry type, a ham and tuna puff pastry sample contained 0.92g trans fats per 100g.
Consuming one piece of the croissant (weighing 46g) and one piece of ham and tuna puff pastry (99g) under test would mean an intake of 0.51g and 0.91g trans fats respectively, equivalent to about 23% and 41% of the trans fats daily intake upper limit.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recommended that less than 1% and 10% of daily energy intake should come from trans fats and saturated fats, respectively. For example, an individual with a daily energy intake of 2,000 kcal, the daily intake upper limit for trans fats is 2.2g, and that for saturated fats is 20g.
Cheese cakes are also high in trans fats, partly due to its large serving size. For instance, a piece of Japanese style cheese cake weighing 169g contained 1.1g of trans fats, equivalent to about 50% of the daily intake upper limit.
The test also revealed that the trans fats in cream soups with puff pastry mostly came from the puff pastries and the levels varied among different samples.
One sample of cream soup with puff pastry was found to contain 1g of trans fats per bowl and its trans fats content predominantly came from its puff pastry. On the other hand, the puff pastry of another sample of cream soup with puff pastry with the lowest trans fats in that type was found to contain as low as 0.012g trans fats in its puff pastry.
There is evidence that trans fats intake is linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Trans fats are considered more harmful to health than saturated fats.
On the positive side, the test results showed the average trans fats levels in the latest test samples were cut by half as compared with the past tests, down from 0.63g to 0.30g per 100g. The top three most noticeable food types in this regard were doughnut, wife cake and cream-filled bun with shredded coconut（椰絲奶油包）.
Three samples of these three food types were respectively bought from the same chain bakery stores as in the previous tests did. The trans fats level of the doughnut sample decreased more than 90%, down from the 2008 test result of 0.46g to 0.03g per 100g. The wife cake sample did not contain any trans fats in the latest test, compared with 1.7g per 100g as found in the 2008 test. The trans fats level of a cream-filled bun sample with shredded coconut sample was 0.36g per 100g, a 80% drop from 1.8g per 100g as found in the 2007 test.
The Council and CFS appreciate the industry's effort in reducing the level of trans fats in food manufacturing.
The test clearly showed the levels of trans fats varied quite considerably in samples within the same food type and category. It reflected that during the production process of food, trans fats could possibly be avoided or minimized.
Food manufacturers are therefore urged to observe and reduce the trans fats levels in their production by, for instant, avoiding the use of hydrogenated vegetable oils and developing methods to reduce trans fats contents.
The test also examined the saturated fats contents of the samples. Results showed that two croissant samples were relatively high in saturated fats, at the level of 7.8g and 10.2g respectively per piece (weighing respectively 46g and 64g). These levels are equivalent to about 39% and 51% of the daily intake upper limit.
Consumers are advised to refer to the test results in the latest issue of CHOICE (No. 434) on the contents of trans fats and saturated fats in 84 food samples including bakery products, French fries and cream soups with puff pastry. Other suggestions include:
- make a conscious choice on food with less trans fats and saturated fats;
- maintain a balanced diet (including foods with low salt, low sugar, low fat, and high fibre)to stay healthy;
- avoid using hydrogenated vegetable oil (e.g. margarine, vegetable shortening) or animal fat (e.g. butter or lard) in cooking.
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