STEPS taken by the Health Ministry to scrutinise the dietary patterns of Malaysians are timely. After all, wholesome eating habits are an integral part of the development of a robust and healthy society.
While the ministry has acted to educate the public on the importance of healthful dieting, it is ostensibly not about monitoring the materials and approaches used in fast food advertisements per se.
Indeed, what is just as important, if not more so, is educating the public on eating right. If people are sufficiently informed about what they should and should not eat and that moderation is the way to go, there would hardly be any need to be overly concerned about the frequent airing of highly embellished food advertisements.
Towards this end, the initiatives taken by the Health Ministry, government agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as the consumers’ movements to raise awareness of the importance of sticking to a healthful diet among the population are commendable, and hopefully, the message on the need to drastically reduce the intake of sugar, salt and generally foods with high fat content will continue to be put across to the public in the interest of promoting good health.
In fact, we should learn from our neighbour, Singapore, which took steps many years ago to discourage school and college canteen operators from selling sweetened drinks and foods with high carbohydrates.
Many snack shops on the island republic are also selling yogurt ice cream and it has become fashionable for the young and trendy there to frequent such outlets because of the growing awareness in their society on the importance of wholesome dieting.
Of course, the food campaigns in Singapore would not have been such a success without the government and its agencies being right at the heart of the ‘healthy living’ drive aimed at fostering good eating habits to keep obesity and all the concommitant ailments at bay.
Likewise, food campaigns — in addition to existing ones we plan to promote in future — should also be multi-pronged and carried out with ever greater emphasis on raising health awareness, especially among the younger generation hooked on fast food, the food and drinks manufacturers as well as the myriad of food operators.
To ensure the effectiveness of such campaigns, the Health Ministry, related government agencies and non-governmental organisations such as the various consumer bodies must be actively involved. Quintessentially, it should be a collective effort, and aside from government bodies and non-govermental organisations, all concerned citizens – individual and corporate – should make it a point to contribute to the common good.
Growing affluence is a double-edged sword. And one of its downsides is that it allows more of our young people to eat out and indulge in unfettered feasting.
There are, of course, consequences from bad dieting habits such as binge-eating and drinking which can exact a heavy price on health and should therefore be strongly discouraged. Surely, we cannot afford a country of ununhealthy and productive people.
As food is sold at a wide cross-section of eateries, any food campaigns must necessarily cast their nets far and wide to cover not just the city and town centres but also urban and rural schools as well as colleges and universities.
This is especially relevant since it’s quite usual nowadays for these places of learning to run their own tuck shops and food canteens. And not all of them follow a healthful food regime.