PUTRAJAYA – The government will make it mandatory to label sodium content on food packaging effective July 2022, says Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali.
He said the law, which was gazetted in July last year, was part of the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) strategy to encourage the public to reduce salt intake.
“We are currently giving a grace period to food industry operators to change their product labels before it (the law) is fully enforced,” he said after the ministry’s interactive session with media practitioners held in conjunction with World Salt Awareness Week here today.
Nutrition labels for products are currently required to include energy content, carbohydrates, total sugars, proteins, and fats.
Dr Noor Azmi said as people become more informed about sodium content in their food, it can help them make better choices and avoid contracting non-communicable diseases (NCDs), or keep them under control.
“The use of iodised salt is also emphasised to prevent iodine deficiency disorder (IDD), however, it must also be within the recommendation of fewer than five grams a day.
“Always read labels and compare sodium content before purchasing food, prioritise home-cooked dishes, and limit salt intake,” he said.
According to him, the MOH also began implementing the Universal Salt Iodisation Programme from Jan 1.
The use of iodised salt is among public health interventions to prevent and control health problems due to IDD, such as cognitive and physical growth disorders of infants and children, goiter, and fertility disorders.
People in general need to have strong willpower to choose healthy eating, especially in consuming less salt, said nutrition expert, Assoc Prof Dr Hazreen Abdul Majid.
Hazreen, who is from the Department of Community Medicine and Prevention, Medical Faculty of Universiti Malaya, said there had been studies done which showed adults taking a lot of salt as they were used to it since small.
“Having willpower means how we can make an unhealthy food healthy. For example, many people like to keep a stock of canned sardines, but perhaps they could throw away the sauce before cooking the sardines because of its high salt content.”
He said this after an interaction session between the Ministry of Health and media practitioners in conjunction with World Salt Awareness Week, here, today.
Hazreen said as an alternative to salt, spices, lemongrass and galangal could be added to dishes and he also suggested using potassium chloride if one does not have kidney problems.
“Parents should be smart in educating their children on healthy eating. Each ethnic group has its own food preferences and they need to be creative in preparing food at home with the health aspect a priority, so that good eating habits will prevail until adulthood,” he added.
According to the Malaysian Community Salt Study (MyCoSS) 2017/2018, the average salt intake by Malaysians was 7.9 gm or 1.6 teaspoon per day compared to the recommended amount of 5 gm per day.
Excess intake of salt can cause high blood pressure, which is among the main risk factors for fatality in the country.
The World Salt Awareness Week themed, ‘More Flavour, Less Salt’, from March 8 to 14, focuses on healthy living awareness in the community as a non-communicable diseases prevention measure.