Foundation blames soup for high sodium intakes

By Chiu Yi-chun and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Fri, Aug 23, 2013 - Page 3

It will be of no surprise that most Taiwanese are consuming too much sodium on a daily basis, but a large part comes from soups eaten with main meals, according to the John Tung Foundation.

The foundation said its recent survey of 147 ready-to-eat soup products sold on grocery shelves and in convenience stores showed that both family-size soup packages and regular serving packages contained approximately to 500 to 600 milligrams of sodium per person per serving.

Hsu Hui-yu (許惠玉), head of the foundation’s food nutrition section, said the recommended daily intake (RDI) of sodium is 2,400 milligrams per person per day, as suggested by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

However, according to nationwide health and nutrition studies, most people in Taiwan, from elementary school age upward, are ingesting twice the RDI amount on average. Hsu pointed out this may due to the Taiwanese habit of drinking soup during meals.

She said that the government of Finland stipulates soup products carry a warning if it exceeds 720 milligrams of sodium for 200ml single serving of soup.

“If we follow this standard, then nearly a fourth of all soup products surveyed would have to carry a warning,” Hsu said.

The foundation’s survey found that one single serving of Italian vegetable soup of the Day & Day brand contains 1,266 milligrams of sodium, while one serving of Carrefour’s in-house brand Hong Kong-style hot and sour soup contains 1,124 milligrams of sodium. Consuming two servings of the soups mentioned would almost exceed the daily intake limit for sodium.

“Most people’s taste buds aren’t sensitive enough to detect levels of salt. They are unable to assess the sodium content and that’s why people should read the product label,” Hsu said.

As part of its testing, the foundation got 11 people to try out creamy corn soup, seaweed egg drop soup and miso soup, with three to four different levels of saltiness for the three types of soup.

The tasters were told to rank the soups in terms of saltiness. The result indicated that seven of the 11 got almost all the rankings wrong, while the remaining four had less than half correct, Hsu said.

Chen Hsing-ho (陳醒荷), the foundation’s deputy chief of nutrition, reminded the public to buy instant soup products containing less than 400 milligrams of sodium.

“Family-size soup products have more salt so we recommend diluting the soup with water. Vegetables, egg and meat can also be added. This way more people can share it,” she said.