Materia Medica Malaysiana

February 24, 2007

Banning ads may not solve bad eating habits

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 10:30 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Banning fast food advertisements may not be the answer to bad eating habits, according to dieticians.
National Heart Institute Dietetics and Food Services senior manager Mary Easaw-John and Malaysian Dietitians’ Association president Tan Yoke Hwa said educating the public on right eating habits may be the better option.
Easaw-John said the Health Ministry should also look at stalls and hawker centres if the idea was to reduce fat consumption.
“Food sold there also have high calories and fat,” she said.
Easaw-John said fast food meant ready-to-eat cooked food and not just burgers and fried chicken.
They were responding to Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek’s plan to table a paper to the Cabinet, banning fast food advertisements.
Dr Chua had said that Malaysians’ poor eating habits were contributing to more lifestyle-related diseases and that the obesity rate in the country had increased to 37 per cent, from 20 per cent a decade ago.
A fast food “sin tax” is also being considered as fast food is deemed to be a “silent killer”.
According to the Nielsen Media Index fast food outlets seemed a favourite haunt of Malaysians aged 15 and above.
The survey between January and December 2006 found that 43 per cent had visited fast-food outlets in the preceding month.
Easaw-John recommends working with the fast food industry to come up with nutrition information on their food as well as lower fat choices for the nation.
“It must be a win-win situation, otherwise stop licensing them. It’s unfair to issue licences to operate and then ban them from advertising.
“What food is safe now after all? All our food now is subject to some sort of pollution. We just have to make informed choices.
“If the government wants to ban advertisements, they must then ban quite a few advertisements, including supplement advertisements, junk food advertisements and SMS advertisements and dating services.”
Easaw-John said people eating in fast food joints should also make proper choices in selecting their meal.
“Take a single burger instead of a double or triple one and take a fruit juice. Don’t take fries and don’t go for offers. Be sensible. It’s like your bank deposits. If you are smart and save well, your retirement plans are good.”
She said there was no such thing as good or bad food, just good and bad eating habits.
“Whether it’s fast food or local food, anything taken in excess will lead to chronic diseases. A burger is about 560 calories, while a small plate of nasi minyak with its accompaniments also has the same amount of calories. It has to be looked at objectively,” said Easaw-John.
Tan said banning fast-food advertisements would not stop people from frequenting the outlets.
“The ministry cannot be the police for the public. The public needs to know why fast food is harmful in terms of its high calorie and fat content.
“They should know how much they are consuming and what their limits are.”
However, Tan admitted there was a lack of professional manpower to disseminate information to the public.
She said the problem was more centred in urban areas where people tended to eat more than they should.
“It’s not necessarily fast food. Roti canai is not classified as fast food but it can have a lot of oil. The same goes for deep fried local dishes and dishes cooked with a lot of coconut milk.
“We have to look at the total picture,” she said.

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