15% of Bread Samples are either “High Fat” or “High Sodium” – Sodium Content of Sausage Rolls accounts for almost 30% of Daily Intake Limit

15 November 2018
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15% of Bread Samples are either “High Fat” or “High Sodium” – Sodium Content of Sausage Rolls accounts for almost 30% of Daily Intake Limit

Along with the convenience of “a bread a day”, such dietary habit may lead to excessive sodium intake and even obesity.  In a test on 10 commonly available types of bread, conducted by the Consumer Council in collaboration with the Centre for Food Safety (CFS), found relatively high sodium content in sausage rolls and sesame buns, with a sausage roll sample containing 540mg of sodium or almost 30% of the WHO’s recommended daily intake limit.  Furthermore, in total fat content, all croissants samples and 3 samples of cocktail buns are classified as “high fat”, with 2 of the cocktail bun samples containing up to 26g of total fat or nearly 40% of the daily intake limit.  The Council stressed that even among the same type of bread their sodium and fat content could vary significantly.  Consumers are advised to carefully choose bread of lower sodium and lower fat to minimize health risk.

100 samples included in the 10 types of bread were: white bread, wholemeal bread, croissant, wheat bread with raisin, sweet plain bun, sesame bun (or salty roll), pineapple bun, cocktail bun, tuna bun and sausage roll.  For each type of bread, 10 samples were sourced from different outlets including bakery, café and supermarket to test their sodium, total fat and trans fat contents.

Sodium content

For sodium content, although 2 samples of sausage rolls ranked the top (540mg), sesame buns on average were 14% higher than sausage rolls, averaging to contain 480mg sodium per 100g.  However, as sesame buns are without fillings and lighter, each weighing 53 to 80g, their actual sodium content was 200 to 400mg per sample.  In contrast with sausage rolls each weighing 84 to 120g, most of the samples turned out to contain higher sodium; except for 1 sample with only 190mg, the sodium content of the rest of the sausage rolls was 320 to 540mg per sample. 

In the test, 1 sausage roll and 1 sesame bun, measured with 640mg/100g and 630mg/100g of sodium respectively, were both considered as “high sodium” food (with more than 600mg/100g).  According to the WHO, an adult’s recommended daily sodium intake should not exceed 2,000mg; on that basis, consumption of 1 single sausage roll with the highest sodium content (540mg) could already reach 27% of the daily intake limit.

Similarly, the sodium content of white bread should not be ignored, as it also contained as in the case of a sausage roll an average of 420mg/100g sodium.  Consumption of 1 piece of white bread, though with only 150 to 230mg of sodium, but according to the dietary pattern of making a sandwich with 2 pieces of bread, the sodium intake would be doubled to 300 to 460mg, even higher than the sesame bun with the highest sodium content.  Compounded with the addition of other food ingredients such as ham in a sandwich the sodium intake could rise up even further, consumers should be guarded of the above.

The test also found, on the other hand, samples of 5 wheat breads with raisin, 6 sweet plain buns, 5 pineapple buns and 1 cocktail bun to contain 21 to 120mg sodium per 100g of sample, which are considered by the CFS as “low sodium” food (with no more than 120mg of sodium per 100g of solid food).

Total fat content

13 samples were defined as “high fat” food (with more than 20g/100g of total fat) including all 10 croissants and 3 cocktail buns. The 10 croissant samples were found with a total fat content ranging from 23 to 31g/100g or an average of 27g.  Though higher than the total fat content of the 10 cocktail buns with 14 to 22g/100g or an average of 19g, a croissant is generally lighter in weight, the heaviest sample was only 73g.  In contrast, even the lightest cocktail bun weighed 86g, and on a per sample basis, the total fat content of croissants was 15 to 22g while that of cocktail buns was 15 to 26g.  According to the findings, consumption of a single cocktail bun with the highest fat content could reach 39% of the daily intake limit.

The total fat content of all the bread samples was higher than the “low fat” criterion of no more than 3g/100g, so none could be considered as “low fat”.

Trans fat content

Trans fat content of white bread and wholemeal bread were measured with the lowest average content of 0.032g and 0.040g per 100g of sample respectively.  Considerable variances in trans fat content were found within the 10 samples of the same types of bread.  The variation among the cocktail bun samples was relatively low but still doubled between the highest and the lowest samples in trans fat content. The variation was the highest in the wheat bread with raisin samples – by 17 times.

The WHO recommends that daily trans fat intake should not exceed 1% of one’s required daily energy consumption, calculated by a daily intake of 2,000 kilocalories, trans fat intake should be less than 2.2g.  The test results showed that the trans fat content across the samples of same type of bread could be of great difference, this reflects room for the industry to reduce the trans fat content in bread.  Take croissant as an example, the sample with the highest trans fat content contains as high as 0.72g of trans fat, accounting for 33% of the daily intake, but the lowest sample only contains 0.19g, contributing to less than 10% of daily intake.

Trans fat is unsaturated fat but it raises the concentration of bad cholesterol and lower the good cholesterol, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease.  The WHO and Hong Kong have both set targets or indicators to prohibit the use of industrially produced trans fat, hopefully by 2023 and 2025.

In addition, the test also looked at 10 prepackaged white bread and wholemeal bread samples that came with nutrition information labeling.  The result showed the average sodium content to be 443mg and 446mg/100g respectively – higher than the test samples of 420mg and 400mg.  As for total fat content, the prepackaged samples were respectively 4.4g and 5.0g/100g – lower than the test samples of 7.2g and 7.7g. 

Advice to consumers:

- Maintain a balanced diet with wide food variety, reduce intake of breads containing high sodium, total fat and trans fat;
- Pay heed to the nutritional composition when choosing breads to best suitable to individual needs;
- In purchase of prepackaged breads, read carefully the nutrition label to check on the sodium, total fat and trans fat contents.

Suggestions to the traders:

- Constantly assess the nutrient content of the breads supplied to ensure public health;
- Improve the production process and ingredients to minimize the sodium, total fat and trans fat content in the breads;
- Build up a company food database to monitor the food nutrient content;
- On the menu, price list and other published material, list out the nutrition information on non-prepackaged breads for the reference of consumers.

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