Materia Medica Malaysiana

March 13, 2007

Fast food sector bows to ministry’s ad demands

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:16 am

NST: PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry has worked out a deal with the fast food industry that includes major concessions aimed at creating a generation of healthier Malaysians.
The major players in the industry have agreed to give the ministry the last word on fast food advertisements. They also concurred with the ministry that such advertisements should not be aired during children shows.
In a new development, fast food outlets will carry announcements on the calorie count of each food item besides stating the average number of calories a person should take a day.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the matter was ironed out in a meeting between representatives of major multinational fast food companies and the ministry’s technical committee on fast food.
The ministry was represented by Public Health Department Food Quality Control division director Dr Abdul Rahim Mohamad.
“In short, the ministry has total control over fast food advertisements as the companies concerned cannot advertise their fast food without our approval,” he said, adding that he would inform the Cabinet of the outcome of the meeting.
The ministry’s initiative is a follow-up to a report that Malaysia had the most number of overweight people in the Asean region. In fact, the number of fat people here exceeds that in many developed countries, including Germany and France.
In the last 10 years, the number of overweight people has more than doubled.
A survey showed that 54 per cent of the adult population was either obese or overweight.
Ten years ago, it was only 24.1 per cent. The MySoN (Malaysian Shape of the Nation) survey showed that 48 per cent of Malaysian men and 62 per cent of Malaysian women were fat.
Dr Chua said if the ministry did not take a firm stand on the matter, then more Malaysians would become overweight and fall victim to lifestyle-related diseases.
“Eating fast food is considered ‘cool’ among those aged below 30. It’s a culture and in popular demand,” he said, adding that children below 12 years demanded that they be taken to fast food outlets due to the lure of advertisements and toys used as “bait”.
Dr Chua said the banning or controlling of fast food advertisements was not an instant solution to the problem of an overweight populace.
“But it is definitely a move in the right direction, just like the banning of cigarette and liquor advertisements will help create awareness and reduce the number of people who might otherwise become victims of lifestyle-related diseases.”
He said it could not be denied that Malaysia was a food haven.
“We are also one of the very few countries in the world with 24-hour eateries.”
He said Malaysians placed a lot of emphasis on comfort food and taste to the extent that they did not give importance to its nutritional content.
“What is worrying is that Malaysians daily consume food rich in fat, salt and sugar. They also do not exercise.”
He said studies had shown that less than 15 per cent of Malaysians exercised three times a week for 30 minutes.
More than 10,000 people in Malaysia die each year from diseases linked to hypertension such as stroke, renal failure and heart attack including about 6,000 coronary heart disease deaths.

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