Hong Kong’s Consumer Council has found that baked products on sale in the city are loaded with trans fats which could cause coronary heart disease when consumed in excessive amounts.
One-quarter of the total baked cakes and puff pastries – or 19 out of 75 products – in the study were found to have exceeded the maximum amount of trans fats suggested by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation.
Two samples of puff pastry cream soup and butter cake were found to contain the highest level of trans fat per sample, reaching as much as 84 per cent of the daily limit.
The WHO recommends that consumption of trans fats is limited to less than 1 per cent of total energy intake. Adults are advised not to consume more than 2.2 grams of trans fat per day in a 2,000 kcal diet. (Teenagers should be consuming 2,200-3,200 kcal a day.)
“Excessive trans fat consumption will not only increase ‘bad cholesterol’ in the blood, posing risks to develop coronary heart disease in the long run,” said Dr Henry Ng Chi-cheung, principal medical officer at the Centre for Food Safety, adding “it will also destroy the ‘good cholesterol’.”
The test included 75 local food samples such as puff pastry cream soup, tarts, pies, biscuits, and Chinese pastry. Among them, puff pastry cream soup had the highest level of trans fats, which was mainly contained in the pastry. The eight tested samples were found to have trans fat levels ranging from 0.75 to 3.4 grams per 100g.
Cookies and chicken pies were also found to contain high levels of trans fat.
According to the council’s report, one piece of butter cake from St Lolan Bakery in Sai Ying Pun accounted for as much as 84 per cent of the daily quota of trans fat. One bowl of the puff pastry cream soup from Cafe 360 in Sham Shui Po also accounted for the same percentage with some 11 per cent of industrially produced trans fat.
Pak Sin Bakery, whose wife cakes were found with the highest level of trans fat in the Chinese pastries category, told the council it agreed with the testing result and hoped to decrease industrially produced trans fat by 30 per cent by using different ingredients.
Cafe 360 said the industrially produced trans fat came mostly from the puff pastry, a half-made product from a supplier which controlled the manufacturing, and it would communicate with the supplier to see if it could be further decreased.
The signature mille crepes of Lady M, a popular cake shop chain originally from New York, used up 27 per cent of the upper limit of trans fat recommended by the WHO.
“The naturally produced trans fat comes from dairy products including butter, vegetable oil and cream, which are the main ingredients of crafting mille crepes,” a spokeswoman said.
Although Hong Kong has no law on trans fats, Ng noted the government was actively studying legislation governing them in other countries.
Apart from the natural trans fat content in baked food and pastries, ingredients with partially hydrogenated oil contain industrially produced fat.
Nora Tam Fung-yee, the council’s research and testing committee chairwoman, noted that the fact some samples were found to be free of industrially produced trans fat indicated there was room to modify recipes, such as choosing edible oil free of industrially produced trans fat.