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High Trans Fat (TFA) Content Found in Baked Food Products Industrially Produced TFA in Puffy Pastry Soups Exceeds the Limit by 5 Times

  • 2019.06.17

Baked cakes and puff pastry are popular foods. But in addition to their natural trans fat content, ingredients with partially hydrogenated oil (PHO) contain industrially produced trans fat. Furthermore, high temperature during food processing boosts the trans fat content, which excessive trans fat consumption will increase “bad cholesterol” in the blood and pose a risk of developing coronary heart disease in longer run. Consumers should also heed that excessive intake of total fat increase the risk of heart disease, obesity and cancer.

The Consumer Council, in collaboration with the Centre for Food Safety (CFS), sourced 75 locally produced food samples with trans fat content and put into tests. The findings revealed that 19 samples were found to contain industrially produced trans fat exceeding 2% of the total fat content – and up to 5 times more in the case of 2 puffy pastry cream soups. Puffy pastry cream soup samples had the highest average amount of trans fat; consuming a bowl of soup with puffy pastry had 1.7g of trans fat, representing almost 80% of the daily upper limit. Furthermore, nearly half of the samples (35 samples), including puffy pastry of pastry cream soups, cookies and chicken pies, were found to fall in the category of “high fat” foods, containing more than 20g of total fat per 100g of food.

Food producers are strongly urged to improve their choice of production recipes, with ingredients and raw materials that contain no partially hydrogenated oil or industrially produced trans fat (IP-TFA), like margarine and vegetable shortening. They should also consider using vegetable oil to reduce the total fat and trans fat content in the ingredients to offer consumers healthier food choices.

Included in the 75 samples of local food products were 16 puffy pastry cream soups, 26 pies/tarts/puffs, 14 cookies/cakes, and 19 Chinese pastries/sweet pastries or other foods. The test investigated the total fat, trans fat and saturated fat content, and determined the ratio of industrially produced trans fat to total fat content.

Among the different product categories tested, the puffy pastry cream soup samples had the highest trans fat content. The trans fat content of the puffy pastry cream soups was mainly in the puff; the 8 puff samples were found to vary considerably in their trans fat content, from 0.75g to 3.4g per 100g, a difference of 3.5 times.

According to recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), adults should not consume over 2.2g of trans fat per day in a 2,000 kcal diet. For the sample with the highest quantity of trans fat, consuming 1 portion of the soup with puffy pastry contained 1.7g of trans fat, had already made up about 80% of the daily trans fat intake limit. By comparison, the sample with the lowest quantity of 0.46g trans fat was almost less than 2.5 times the highest trans fat sample, indicates that food producers have room for improvement in the use of ingredients.

As for the cookie/cake samples, the average trans fat content in the 6 cookie samples was 0.90g per 100g, in the 8 cake samples it was 0.41g per 100g, and in the pie/tart/puff pastry samples, it was 0.49g per 100g. Although individual samples may be low in trans fat, like a piece of 1 cookie sample contained as low as 0.01g of trans fat, a few were normally consumed at one time. Consumers are reminded that prolonged consumption of a large amount may still lead to excessive trans fat intake and a health risk. 

A breakfast consisting of a chicken pie and a cup of Hong Kong-style milk tea without sugar, for example, will lead to an intake of trans fat of 37% of the daily upper limit; an afternoon tea set of an egg tart and a cup of Hong Kong-style coffee without sugar will take up 16% of the recommended daily limit of trans fat.

Naturally occurring trans fat exists in ruminants such as the meat and fat of cows and sheep, and in dairy products, such as milk, butter, cheese and cream. Trans fat are produced during food processing when the food is cooked at high temperature, when it is baked or fried, for example. Regarding the level of industrially produced trans fat in processed food, Denmark sets the ratio of industrially produced trans fat to total fat content at 2% as the limit. Based on this calculation, 19 samples were found to contain industrially produced trans fat exceeding the ratio limit (2%), from 2.3% to 12%. The highest in the industrially produced trans fat assessment was the puffy pastry in 2 pastry cream soups (12%), which exceeded the limit by 5 times. 

But 9 of the 75 food samples including some cookie and cake samples, and the puffy pastry in 1 pastry cream soup sample turned out to be free of industrially produced trans fat, indicating that in the choice of raw materials and the production process, food producers can have room to modify the recipes to reduce the use of materials and ingredients containing industrially produced trans fat. The industry is urged to change their ingredients to edible oil that is free of partially hydrogenated oil and industrially produced trans fat, or by choosing puffy base with lower industrially produced trans fat, and replacing solidified oil with healthier liquid oil to eliminate industrially produced trans fat in their food products.

In addition to the intake of trans fat, the total fat content in food is of equal concern. The test showed that nearly half of the samples reached the level of “high fat” food, with more than 20g of total fat per 100g. Among the “high fat” samples were all the cookies and the puffy pastry in the pastry cream soups, and most (6 samples) of the chicken pies. Highest in total fat was 1 cookie sample with 39g per 100g; eating a single piece (8g) would mean an intake of 3.1g of total fat. On the basis of a daily energy intake of 2,000 kcal, the total fat intake should not exceed 66g. Therefore, consuming 22 of the cookies tested would reach the daily intake limit.

Consumers should note the following suggestions when cooking and buying food:

- Maintain a balanced diet, cut down on fried and highly fatty baked foods, and choose snacks and other food with low or no trans fat content;

- When cooking, consider using healthier edible oils to replace margarine and vegetable shortening, and steam your food instead of deep frying or pan frying;

- Before buying prepackaged food, read the labels carefully, paying particular attention to the content of trans fat, saturated oil and total fat.

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