SINGAPORE: As part of the Government's ongoing war on diabetes, Singapore health authorities are studying plans to help Singaporeans cut their sugar intake by a quarter.
The Health Promotion Board (HPB) said on Tuesday (Feb 6) it aims to reduce their sugar intake from 22 per cent of overall carbohydrate intake to 17 per cent.
HPB has also set new targets to reduce the consumption of "bad", or refined carbohydrates, from 83 per cent of overall carbohydrate intake to 65 per cent, while doubling the intake of "good" or unrefined carbohydrates – such as wholegrain and fibre – from 17 per cent to 35 per cent.
According to HPB, carbohydrates make up 52 per cent of Singaporeans' daily diet.
CUTTING SUGAR USAGE IN RESTAURANTS
The agency is also studying plans on including sugar as a new category under the Healthier Ingredients Development Scheme (HIDS).
HIDS is a S$20 million scheme launched in July last year to encourage food ingredient suppliers to develop and market healthier food staples such as wholegrain noodles and rice. The scheme subsidises up to 80 per cent of a project’s total investment.
In a media briefing, chief executive Zee Yoong Kang said HPB plans to focus on restaurants. Restaurants are heavy users of sugar, used not just in their desserts, but in an array of dishes and sauces.
He emphasised that no plans are set in stone yet, as HPB is still studying the feasibility of introducing sugar as a new category.
“There are many more restaurants than there are food manufacturers,” said Mr Zee.
HPB's strategy will also have to change, as it shifts to incentivising restaurants to create new recipes using less sugar or alternative sugar products, rather than creating and marketing a new type of sugar.
To study the plan's feasibility, HPB said it is working with several food and beverage businesses such as Tung Lok and F&N to produce healthier options, especially for the Chinese New Year period.
For example, they have partnered with Tung Lok to produce a sauce for yusheng and a mango pudding dessert that have less refined sugar.
HPB food scientist Eunice Pang said that this is through the partial replacement of refined sugar with “novel” sugars called isomaltulose and allulose. These are natural sugars that have lower glycemic index values found in crops such as sugar beet and jackfruits, respectively.
She added that it is a challenge to come up with recipes using alternative sugar products to partially replace refined sugar, as the chemical composition of refined sugar affects the texture of the dish.
SUGAR REDUCTION GUIDELINES
HPB is also looking at publishing a set of sugar reduction guidelines, said HPB’s director of policy, research and surveillance Annie Ling. This will inform chefs and processors how much sugar should be used for each type of product, and will be done “in close consultation" with the industry.
“We have to look at what is the baseline sugar levels (for each type of product), and what are the sugar reduction target we should be looking towards,” Dr Ling said.
“And those guidelines will have to be sales-weighted … because we want the industry to focus on the products that are the top-selling products, and contribute the most to the sugar level in particular.”
HPB hopes that these plans will help to increase the availability of lower-sugar options in the market.
“We still enjoy our desserts, but we can have healthier desserts,” said Dr Pang.