CFS study reveals sodium content in Chinese congee raises concerns over daily intake

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8th December 2023 – (Hong Kong) The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department has recently unveiled the findings of a comprehensive study on the sodium content in Chinese congee. While none of the samples tested were classified as “high” in sodium content (exceeding 600 milligrams/100 grams), the study highlights that the consumption of certain types of congee may lead to sodium intake approaching the upper limit recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) due to the substantial amounts typically consumed.

The research encompassed a total of 174 commonly available non-prepackaged food samples. These samples consisted of 12 types of Chinese congee with ingredients (117 samples), as well as individual plain congee (24 samples) and seasoned congee (plain congee with seasoning) (33 samples). The samples were collected from Chinese restaurants, fast food establishments, and congee shops. The Food Research Laboratory of the CFS conducted an in-depth analysis of the sodium content in these samples.

The results indicate that the average sodium content of the various congee samples with ingredients was 270 milligrams per 100 grams, with a range spanning from 33 milligrams to 460 milligrams per 100 grams. Notably, the congee types with the highest average sodium content were congee with pig’s liver (330 milligrams/100 grams), congee with chicken (300 milligrams/100 grams), congee with pig giblets (290 milligrams/100 grams), and congee with preserved egg and pork (290 milligrams/100 grams).

Among the congee types that prominently featured vegetables as key ingredients, congee with sweet corn exhibited an average sodium content of 180 milligrams per 100 grams, while congee with pumpkin had an average sodium content of 220 milligrams per 100 grams. These vegetable-based congee options showcased comparatively lower sodium content among the various congee types with ingredients. Additionally, among the ten types of non-vegetarian congee, congee with fish displayed the lowest average sodium content at 220 milligrams per 100 grams.

The study further revealed significant variation in sodium content among samples of the same congee type sold at different restaurants and congee shops. This disparity suggests that industry operators have the opportunity to learn from one another’s practices and potentially reduce the sodium content in these congee types. Notably, the sodium content of plain congee base was considerably lower than that of seasoned congee base, indicating that selecting plain congee as a base offers the potential to lower sodium intake, particularly for congee with ingredients.

A spokesperson from the CFS emphasized that excessive sodium intake is closely linked to hypertension, a risk factor for non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and stroke. In line with global guidelines, the WHO recommends a daily salt intake of less than 5 grams (equivalent to 2,000 milligrams of sodium) for adults.