This study aims to examine the use of non-nutritive (NNSs) and low-calorie sweeteners (LCSs) in pre-packaged foods in Hong Kong and the differences in the number of NNSs/LCSs used between products from different regions. In a cross-sectional audit, the types of NNSs/LCSs used in 19,915 pre-packaged foods in Hong Kong were examined by searching the ingredients list of the included products for keywords related to 20 common NNSs/LCSs and their respective E-numbers. Prevalence of use of NNSs and LCSs, the co-presence of NNSs/LCSs and free sugar ingredients (FSI), and the number of NNSs/LCSs used in the included foods were computed. Pearson’s χ2
test was used to compare the total number of NNSs and/or LCSs used in food items from different regions. Sucralose (E955) was the most commonly used NNS (1.9%), followed by acesulfame K (E950, 1.6%). Sorbitol was the most commonly used LCS (2.9%). Overall, the use of LCSs was less common compared with NNSs (3.7% vs. 4.5%). The use of different types of NNSs varied substantially between food types. Notably, 20.2% of potato crisps and 15.2% of other crisps or extruded snacks contained at least one NNS and/or LCS. Co-presence of FSIs and NNSs/LCSs were most common in confectionery (15.7%) and snack foods (15.5%). Asian prepackaged foods were more likely to contain NNSs/LCSs (10.1%) compared with those from other regions. To conclude, NNSs/LCSs were used in a wide range of non-diet pre-packaged products which could be a public health concern due to their higher consumption frequencies than “diet” products.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited