Developing a policy to reduce the salt content of food consumed outside the home in Malaysia
May 2020 - November 2021
In early 2020, Professor Feng He and Professor Graham MacGregor, based at Queen Mary University of London, were awarded £140,000 from the Newton Fund Impact Scheme, along with partners at:
- Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
- Univerity of Malaya
- Sunway University
- Ministry of Health Malaysia
The funding will be used to develop a policy to reduce the salt content of food consumed outside the home in Malaysia. This project is a continuation of our previous work in Malaysia - Population-based salt intake survey to support the national salt reduction programme for Malaysia - which revealed that food eaten outside the home (from restaurants or street food vendors) is a major contributor of salt to the Malaysian diet. The majority of the population eat outside the home regularly and while the salt content of those meals is likely to be high, without nutrition information at the point of sale, it is difficult for consumers to monitor how much they eat.
- interview 385 stakeholders across the country to determine what factors they feel might prevent a policy to reduce salt levels in the out of home sector
- use this data to develop a strategy
- gain commitment from policy makers to implement our strategy as policy
- organise workshops to explain to chefs and other food industry representatives why salt should be reduced, and the methods they can use to reduce salt in food.
Setting salt targets for pre-packaged food is an important approach for reformulation policies and this work is currently underway in Malaysia, led by the Ministry of Health. However, out of the home sector is lagging behind. Given the large contribution of foods consumed outside the home to daily salt intake in Malaysia, engagement with the industry to achieve a gradual reduction in salt levels would have a greater impact on public health than education or public awareness campaigns.
Salt levels in food eaten outside the home is a public health issue around the world. While we will aim to benefit the health of the Malaysian population through our project, we hope the results will be utilised by other countries in the development of similar salt reduction policies.