Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Malaysians’ sweet tooth now at alarming level

Published: Tuesday July 28, 2009 MYT 5:09:00 PM

Malaysians’ sweet tooth now at alarming level


GEORGE TOWN: The consumption of sugar by Malaysians has increased by an alarming rate, from an average of 17 teaspoons per person in the 1970s to 26 teaspoons in the new millennium.

Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) president S.M. Mohamed Idris said the consumption might have increased even further now given that the latest research was done in 2005.

He said Malaysians consumed sugar in the form of soft drinks, condensed milk, flavoured drinks, junk food and even breakfast cereals, with a CAP survey revealing that some drinks and food contained 10 teaspoons of sugar in one serving.

Idris said a brand of orange juice contained 40.8 teaspoons of sugar in a two-litre pack while a brand of cordial syrup had 200 teaspoons in a two-litre bottle.

He said that former Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad had revealed earlier this year that Malaysia was the eighth highest sugar user in the world.

He said the International Diabetes Institute recorded Malaysia as having the fourth highest number of diabetics in Asia with 800,000 cases in 2007, expected to increase to 1.3 million in 2010.

“Sugar is a widely eaten nutrient-free food and it’s linked to over 60 ailments such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart problems, osteoperosis, kidney problems, asthma and allergies.

“According to Health Ministry statistics, 11.6 million of the 16 million adults nationwide are sick with a non-communicable disease like diabetes, hypertension or cancer.

“Malaysia has the most overweight and obese people in Asia with 54% of the adult population either being obese or overweight,” Idris told a press conference at CAP office here Tuesday.

He said that according to World Health Organisation journals, sugar was unnecessary for a person’s diet.

“Thus, CAP calls on the Government to work with food manufacturers to avoid sugar in their products,” he added.

He also urged the Government to make it a requirement for manufacturers to graphically display -- for example, with the number of teaspoons -- the sugar content in their products as well as use a colour-coded system to indicate the sugar level (red for high, orange for medium and green for low).

He said the color-coded system would allow consumers -- even children or those with limited nutritional knowledge or numerical skills -- to easily comprehend risk.

“They should also stop advertisements of highly-sugared drinks and food during children’s TV viewing hours.

“At the same time, the Government should educate schoolchildren and the general public on the dangers of excessive sugar intake through health education and the media, respectively,” he said.

He also said vending machines dispensing junk food and sugary drinks should be removed and replaced with drinking water dispensers at places such as hospitals, airports and schools.

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