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Health Ministry plans to limit amount of trans fat used

The Health Ministry plans to limit trans fat in food and in fats and oils sold at the retail outlets, as announced in Parliament on Wednesday.

SINGAPORE: The Health Ministry plans to limit trans fat in food and in fats and oils sold at the retail outlets, as announced in Parliament on Wednesday.

In collaboration with the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA), the ministry will limit trans fat to no more than 2g per 100g product for fats and oils supplied to local food service establishments and food manufacturers, as well as fats and oils sold in retail outlets.

The ministry will also require labelling of trans fat levels on packaging of retail fats and oils.

The amendments to the Food Regulations will be gazetted in May this year by AVA.

Minister of State for Health, Dr Amy Khor said there's a need to limit the consumption of trans fat because of the link to heart disease.

In Singapore, three in ten adults exceeded the World Health Organisation's daily limit of trans fat intake, and two-thirds of these are younger adults under the age of 40.

Dr Khor said the Health Promotion Board (HPB) has actively engaged food manufacturers to reduce trans fat in their products and voluntarily label trans fat content.

Since 2009, foods that have less than 0.5g of trans fat per 100g can carry HPB's enhanced Healthier Choice Symbol.

Dr Khor added that the government has also stepped up efforts to encourage Singaporeans to lead healthier lifestyles.

A task that's not easy because many worked long hours and eat out.

In 2010, 60 per cent of Singaporeans ate out at least four times a week, up from 49 per cent in 2004.

And Dr Khor said with changing lifestyle patterns and an ageing population, the ministry is seeing an increase in prevalence of diabetes and obesity.

Dr Khor: "The Integrated Screening Programme (ISP) was launched in 2008 to encourage Singaporeans to be screened for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, which are all risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

"Singaporeans are also encouraged to be screened for selected cancers. To date, 45,000 people have been screened under this programme, 54 per cent of which were women and 46 per cent were men. 53 per cent of those who have gone for screening were detected with one or more chronic diseases.

"We will continue to encourage more people to go for screening, as well as more GPs to support this programme. Under this programme, Singaporeans pay only S$8 for screening tests for diabetes, high blood pressure, blood cholesterol and obesity. Low income Singaporeans do not need to pay for tests at all."

Turning to the subject of health screening, Dr Khor revealed that she has asked HPB to convene a Women's Health Advisory Committee, which she will chair, to improve screening and follow-up rates amongst women.

This committee will help HPB plan and implement a holistic Women's Health Programme, which will adopt a life-stage approach and seek to equip women of all ages with the necessary knowledge and skills to improve their health.

In addition, the committee will build up a pool of women Health Ambassadors who focus on women's health issues.

The Health Ministry plans to launch the committee on Mother's Day this year, and targets to reach out to 1 million women in Singapore, over three years.

At the community level, Dr Khor said to foster and strengthen such community health promotion initiatives, the ministry will pilot a new Constituency Health Promotion Grant from April this year.

Each constituency will be given up to S$10,000 a year for grassroots leaders to co-plan, co-develop and co-implement health promoting activities for their local residents, such as health talks, healthy cooking demonstrations, exercise programmes or other health interest groups.

HPB will develop a toolkit with simple guidelines and checklists to help grassroots leaders so as to empower the community and energise the ground-up social movement for healthy living.

In addition, to encourage healthier eating habits, the Ministry of Health will be stepping up legislative measures to discourage smoking.

Dr Amy Khor said the ministry will be banning misleading terms on tabacco product packaging and labelling. There will also be a new set of graphic health warning labels. These changes will take effect from 1 March 2013.

Source: CNA/ck


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