Seven Hong Kong Bakeries Join Salt Reduction Push

Victor Ting wrote . . . . . . . . .

Seven Hong Kong bread manufacturers have pledged to reduce salt levels in their prepackaged bread under a voluntary scheme launched by the government’s advisory body on food health.

But one company that did not join the health push was major food group Maxim’s.

The Committee on Reduction of Salt and Sugar in Food, chaired by Executive Council convenor Bernard Chan, announced the plan on Friday.

Under the scheme, the seven manufacturers, including chain stores such as A-1 Bakery, Maria’s Bakery, ParknShop and Saint Honore Cake Shop will follow a voluntary target of reduction to 380 milligrams of sodium – the main constituent of salt – for every 100 g of prepackaged white bread and wholemeal bread on average in a year.

The maximum amount of salt will be set at 490 mg/100 g in white bread and 470 mg/100 g of wholemeal bread, according to the target.

Dr Henry Ng Chi-cheung, principal medical officer for risk assessment and communication at the Centre for Food Safety, said the reduction was necessary to keep city residents healthy.

“Food safety requires three stakeholders – the government, citizens and the industry – to work hand in hand,” Ng said. “The voluntary target is needed because, as we all know, too much salt in our diets will lead to a number of health problems, such as high blood pressure, stroke and kidney diseases.”

According to a 2014-15 Health Department report, Hongkongers between the ages of 15 and 84 have an average daily salt intake of 8.8g, more than the 5g recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Some 6 per cent of sodium consumed by adults comes from bread, while white bread and wholemeal bread are the most and second most consumed types of bread by Hongkongers, according to the Centre for Food Safety.

The Committee on Reduction of Salt and Sugar in Food was set up in 2015 to promote healthier diets. Last year, the advisory body rolled out voluntary salt and sugar labels on the city’s packaged food and drink to give more dietary information to the public.

Dr Ng noted the government had talks with more than 10 bread suppliers, but only seven eventually signed up to the scheme, which did not include the city’s biggest bread manufacturer, Maxim’s.

He added that non-prepackaged bread could be included in the scheme in the future, but he did not think a mandatory target was the way forward.

“We’ve looked at how other countries have done it, and in the US, the UK and Canada, a voluntary target has proved to be effective,” he said. “Ultimately it’s about changing the culinary culture and habit of a place. If industries can work together and achieve the target, it’s actually a good way to do it.”

John Chong, chief executive of King Bakery, one of the seven manufacturers enrolled in the scheme, said lowering salt content involved adjusting the ingredients and the recipe, and would mean extra work for the bakery.

“But I think we should do it for the good health of Hong Kong residents,” Chong said. “I don’t think it tastes that different actually, but you can try it for yourself.”

Source: SCMP

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