KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 — Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has advised food industry players to comply with the Food Act 1983 and the Food (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulation 2020 that makes the labelling of salt content in food and drink products mandatory.
Dr Noor Hisham said the step is to assist consumers to understand the nutritional content of a food or drink product, and will indirectly encourage people to buy food that is healthier and suited to their needs.
He said based on the results of a study of supermarkets in Malaysia in 2017, only half of the food products displayed salt content in the nutritional information.
“The Health Ministry will focus mainly on food industry players by providing education and continued assistance to ensure they are committed to reformulating their food and drink products to reduce the salt content,” he said in a statement in conjunction with the World Salt Awareness Week celebration from March 14 to March 20 with the theme ‘Tak Masin Tu Ok!’ today.
Dr Noor Hisham also said excessive salt intake will increase blood pressure and heighten the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer and kidney problems, which are the main causes of non-contagious deaths(NCD) worldwide.
“An estimated 11 million deaths worldwide are linked to unhealthy diets and three million of those are caused by high salt intake,” he said.
Dr Noor Hisham, therefore, reminded the public to limit their salt intake to not exceed one teaspoon a day overall, including hidden salts, to reduce the risk of NCD diseases.
He also said the public needed to be aware of other hidden salt intakes, including sodium nitrate, sodium bicarbonate, monosodium glutamate (MSG)and to choose products with less or low salt in their labels in addition to using the healthy choice logo (HCL) as a guide.
“Malaysians need to prioritise natural flavours such as garlic, turmeric, ginger, coriander and lime in their dishes, and to reduce the use of salt, sauces and flavourings like MSG, ready-to-use pastes, stock cubes or granules.
“Ultra-processed food intake also needs to be reduced, and eating at home should be encouraged. When eating outside, do remember to order dishes with less salt as your new norm,” he added.