Too-salty noodles cause a stir

Top News | Sophie Hui Feb 15, 2018
Seventy-six out of 100 samples of Asian soup noodles are too salty, the Consumer Council has found.

The watchdog and the Center for Food Safety have tested 10 types of Asian soup noodles, totaling 100 samples, and 76 of them had salt content exceeding the World Health Organization's recommended daily intake of 2,000 milligrams for an average adult.

The sample with the most sodium, spicy rice noodles, is twice as high as the World Health Organization limit, meaning having one bowl and drinking all the soup will be the equivalent of the sodium intake limit for three days.

The most salty spicy rice noodle sample containing 6,000mg of sodium was from a Yunnan Guizhou & Sichuan noodle restaurant in Mong Kok.

The second-highest sodium sample is also spicy rice noodles, bought from a Yunnan noodle restaurant in Mei Foo. The third is noodles in Tom Yum soup with 5,400mg sodium from a Thai restaurant in Tai Kok Tsui.

The least salty sample is a bowl of wheat noodles in soup with wonton of 1,200mg sodium from Wong Chi Kei in Central. However, its sodium level is still 80 percent over the suggested intake per meal (667mg).

Nine out 10 spicy Yunnan noodles with pork belly and squid ball, even without soup, remained too salty for a healthy diet.

Hongkongers' favorite rice noodle chains, TamJai SamGor Mixian and Tam Jai Yunnan Noodles, contained sodium bordering or even exceeding the WHO daily limit.

The test found that the whole bowl of spicy Yunnan noodles with pork belly and squid ball with soup from Tam Jai SamGor Mixian (a branch in Sham Shui Po) has 3,900mg sodium. Even without drinking the soup, the sodium level (2,300mg) still exceeds the WHO limit.

For Tam Jai Yunnan Noodles, the same dish bought from a Tseung Kwan O branch contained 2,800mg of sodium with soup. It would be healthier if people only ate the noodles and ingredients, reducing sodium intake to 2,000mg.

Pha Thai noodles in Tom Yum soup was the saltiest type of Asian soup noodles with average sodium content of 440mg per 100 grams, the watchdog found.

To have the dishes in a healthier way, don't drink the soup, it recommends.

Then sodium intake would be reduced by 40 percent from 6,000mg to 3,500mg in the most salty spicy rice noodle sample.

The watchdog also tested 10 different pre-packed cup or bowl noodles for sodium levels and energy values.

It found that the average sodium content of the 10 samples was 1,900mg, amounting to 95 percent of the WHO's recommended standard, while a Japanese-style bowl noodle contained 3,150mg sodium, the highest among the 10.

The center's principal medical officer, Henry Ng Chi-cheung, said people taking too much sodium or salt risk high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases.

Ng said not only is the soup salty, chefs may add a lot more salt in other ingredients.

"Not drinking soup is one of the methods for not to consume so much salt," he said. "However, ordering soup noodles tested to be less salty is another method to reduce salt intake."

He suggested restaurants let customers add the sauces or other condiments by themselves.

Some restaurants agreed to or would consider lowering the sodium level in their food, but some said they had no plan to do so.

A Singaporean restaurant said Singapore food is known to be spicy and strong flavors. If it changed the flavor to meet the needs of healthier diet, it would go against its claim to provide the genuine flavor of Singaporean food.

More reports: Page 6

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January 2019