Malaysia and Singapore

Salt Action Summary

Malaysia

In Malaysia, since the early 1980s cardiovascular disease has been the leading cause of mortality. A survey conducted in 1996 showed that 30% of the adult Malaysian population have high blood pressure, and since then this number has probably increased.

Although no dietary survey has been conducted in Malaysia to look at salt intake it is clear from looking at dietary trends that Malaysian’s salt intake is currently at least 10 to 15 g/day. For example, many of the sauces commonly used in Malaysian cooking contain over 2.5g salt/tablespoon. In addition to this, a large number of Malaysians frequently patronise hawker centres. One study in Malaysians adolescents found that 73% of adolescents would have their dinner at hawker centres most days. This will have a substantial effect on salt intake as foods eaten in hawker centres are often high in salt, and a single serving of some of the dishes contribute more than, or close to 1 day’s recommended daily salt intake of 6 grams/day. Also in Malaysia there is currently no legal obligation to label the salt content of processed foods. Therefore it is virtually impossible for the consumer to know how much salt is in a product, consequently they are not aware of how much salt they are eating.

There have been recent reports in the media that would indicate that the Malaysian Minister of Health is encouraging manufacturers to lower the salt content of their food products. It would also appear that The Health Ministry of Malaysia has plans to develop a labelling scheme to help consumers identify healthy food items. The Health Minister has stated that ‘such items would carry a healthy-choice food logo if their sugar, salt and fat content were at healthy levels’.

Singapore

November 2011

Health Promotion Board, Singapore, declares war on salt.

Singapore residents exceed recommended maximum salt intake by 60%.

HPB’s Centre of Excellence for Nutrition introduces “FINEST FOOD” Programme, in collaboration with SPRING Singapore and Singapore Food Manufacturers’ Association, to encourage food companies to develop healthier salt and other functional food products.

Most of the salt (60%) in the local diet comes from table salt and sauces. Of this, almost two-thirds are consumed outside of the home. Processed food, especially fish balls, fish cakes, breads and noodles are estimated to contribute another 37% of the population' s salt intake. The remainder is the salt found naturally in fresh food.

The Health Promotion Board's Centre of Excellence for Nutrition (CoEN) is collaborating with the private sector partner - Singapore Food Manufacturers Association (SFMA) – to make healthier food pervasive.

The HPB are already working with industry partners to develop a ‘healthier salt‟ and other food with lower sodium content. This HCS salt has 25% less sodium3 compared to regular salt. The aim is to reduce the proportion of people exceeding the daily salt recommendation by 30% (from 8 in 10 to 6 in 10) by 2015.
To ensure that technical resources are in place, the FINEST FOOD Programme will also harness food science expertise from knowledge institutions such as the Food Innovation and Resource Center at Singapore Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic, to supervise and test-bed the healthier product formulation to ensure its suitability for market consumption. Local food companies can tap the existing Technology Innovation Programme to adopt technology innovation or Innovation Voucher Scheme to develop innovative food products, including functional food. Both programmes are administered by SPRING Singapore.
For some forward thinking companies, several reformulation projects are already underway. CoEN is presently in collaboration with Siem Trading (the producer of Pagoda Salt) to manufacture a “healthier salt” that meets the nutritional guidelines for the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS). Food companies Prima Taste, Woh Hup, Tai Hua and Sin Hwa Dee are also looking into reformulating their sauces and pastes to contain less salt. Additionally, local food manufacturer Ha Li Fa, has recently developed their popular BoBo fish balls and fish cakes to have a lower salt content. Some of these products (e.g. the “healthier salt”) will be promoted for use in hawker centres and other food service establishments.

The new Healthier Choice Symbol grant would be given to companies to encourage the development of healthier functional products.

Please click here to read full HPB press release

 

In Singapore, where cardiovascular disease is the second commonest cause of death and disability, accounting for just under one third of all deaths, just under 40% of the entire adult population have high blood pressure. Population salt intake is very similar to that of Malaysia. This can largely be explained by the similarity in dietary habits. For example many of the same sauces are added during cooking and at the table and more than two-thirds of Singaporeans eat at hawker centres at least twice a week.

WASH has approached both the Malaysian and Singaporean Ministers of Health with a briefing paper pointing out the need for a reduction in salt intake, the benefits and the evidence that links salt to blood pressure and other harmful effects, and a draft plan of what could be done in these two countries was produced. Action is now being taken in both of these countries in trying to implement some aspects of these plans.