15 of margarine samples in the HK market contain genotoxic carcinogen

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After testing 28 samples of pre-packaged butter, margarine, and spreads, the Consumer Council (CC) revealed the pros and cons of the different varieties, a press release from the CC announced today, 15 September.

The 28 tested samples included 12 samples of butter and 16 samples of margarine and spreads, which could be further categorized as 8 vegetable oil fat spreads, 3 blended fat spreads and blends, 2 garlic-flavored kinds of margarine, 2 fat spreads with added plant sterols or plant stanols, and 1 shortening sample. Test items included food safety and nutrient content, while the accuracy of the nutrient labeling was also compared.

Test Results

CC found that although 12 samples of butter were not detected with the toxic 3-MCPD or the genotoxic carcinogen glycidol, they had a relatively higher content of total fat, saturated fatty acids (SFAs), and trans fatty acids (TFAs), which means that the health risks of which should not be overlooked.

For the 16 samples of margarine and spreads containing vegetable oils, they were found to have a higher average content of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) which could help in lowering “bad” cholesterol levels.

Out of the 16 samples, 15 samples or 90% were found with the genotoxic carcinogen glycidol, one of which even exceeded the maximum level of the European Union’s (EU) standard, while over 80% (13 samples) were detected with the toxic 3-MCPD.

Consumers who opt for butter should be mindful of the consumption size, so as to prevent excessive intake of SFAs and TFAs.

On the other hand, when choosing margarine and spreads which have a lower fat content, consumers are reminded to try and select products with lower contaminant levels to safeguard their health.

However, amongst the 16 samples of margarine and spreads containing vegetable oils, over 80% (13 samples) were detected with 3-MCPD at vastly varying levels.

In terms of glycidol, amongst the 16 samples of margarine and spreads containing vegetable oils, apart from 1 sample of butter and vegetable oil blended fat spread, the remaining 15 samples (94%) were all detected with glycidol at significantly disparate levels.