Malaysia’s government is urging food and beverage companies to reduce the sugar content in their products for health reasons, raising the price of sugar by 14 percent on Friday.
Malaysian Deputy Health Minister Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin said she would meet 60 representatives of the food and drinks industry on Jan. 12 as part of a government campaign to make Malaysians consume less sugar.
“We have to enlighten the people that excessive sugar intake is harmful to health,” she told reporters.
Malaysians drink excessively sweetened beverages, especially the local favorite, teh tarek, made of tea leaves boiled for a long period in water mixed with sugar-loaded condensed milk.
According to a UN report, a diet low in fatty, sugary and salty food is key to staying healthy.
The report says only 10 percent of a person’s calorie intake should come from sugar.
That adds up to approximately 12 teaspoons of a sugar a day based on an average 2,000-calorie diet.
Rosnah cited the Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia’s leading consumer watchdog, as saying Malaysians consumed 26 teaspoons of sugar a day. Americans consume 22 teaspoons of sugar a day.
She said several companies had reduced the sugar content in their food and beverages but more need to follow suit.
The government raised sugar price by 14 percent starting on Friday in line with the rising price of raw sugar in the world market.
Even after hiking the price to 1.65 ringgit (US$0.48) per kilogram, the government is still subsidizing sugar by 0.80 ringgit per kilogram.
This will work out to a subsidy bill of about 1 billion ringgit this year, compared with 720 million ringgit last year, said Mohammad Zain Mohamad Don, the secretary-general of the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry.
Had the government not raised the price, the government subsidy would have been 1.26 billion ringgit this year, based on the country’s estimated consumption of 1.26 million tons of sugar a year, Mohammad Zain said.
In Thailand, sugar costs the equivalent of 2.50 ringgit a kilogram, 3.05 ringgit in Singapore and 3.40 ringgit in Indonesia and the Philippines, he said.
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