Oct 27, 2012

Singapore - Govt mulls tighter advertising rules for unhealthy food & beverages

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SINGAPORE: From next year, advertisements for selected food products and beverages that are deemed unhealthy could come under closer scrutiny.

The government is looking into tougher guidelines for products that are high in fat, sugar or salt to better protect children from food that's bad for their health, as well as promote healthy eating.

The Ministry of Health, which is working on this with the Health Promotion Board (HPB), wants to hear from the public through a consultation exercise that'll be launched in November.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the planned guidelines will mainly target young children - below the age of 12.

He said: "Studies have shown that advertisements in our mass media do have an influence on our young children's food choices, as well as their preference for purchase requests through their parents.

"So it's important for us to see how we can work together to strengthen our guidelines and our system, our rules on advertisements on F&B products that carry high fat, high salt and high sugar content.

"The guidelines will also specify what are the food that will be classified as undesirable, basically will look at the content of each food. We are not targeting at specific brands but looking at the food stuff and studying the content."

Mr Gan said this after the HPB launched three initiatives to encourage Singaporeans to lead a healthy lifestyle.

The first is an online checklist, Healthy Lifestyle Index (HLI), to identify a person's general health behaviour, based on lifestyle.

The second is healthyMEtv - the first digital health channel in the Asia Pacific region with programmes on healthy living and well-being.

It'll offer programmes ranging from short videos on medical conditions to tips on exercise, healthy eating and relaxation.

The third initiative is a Healthy Shopper programme to help Singaporeans choose healthier food and ingredients when they shop for groceries.

The HPB is working on this with supermarket chains - NTUC FairPrice, Cold Storage, Giant and Sheng Siong.

Shoppers will able to tell what's healthier when they shop for food and ingredients such as fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins as these will bear the Healthy Shopper logo.

These new initiatives were introduced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong when he launched the National Healthy Lifestyle Campaign 2012 at Gardens by the Bay on Saturday morning.

The national effort to promote healthy lifestyles through exercise and diet has seen progress since it started 20 years ago. More people are exercising while fewer are smoking.

"But unfortunately more people are becoming obese, with fast foods and sedentary occupations. In the US and UK, obesity has become an epidemic. If we don't want to end up like that, we need to watch what we eat and find ways to exercise more. For myself, I enjoy brisk walks and also swim to keep fit. I take the stairs rather than the lift whenever I can. Every little bit counts," wrote Prime Minister Lee on his Facebook page.

- CNA/ck/ir

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