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Hawkers go healthy and CEOs pledge to trim 25 billion calories from food supply

Singapore, 2 April 2011: To combat rising obesity rates, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) is taking the fight to the hawker centres, food manufacturers, supermarkets, restaurants, caterers and food courts. HPB is working with hawkers to offer healthier food options in the Healthier Hawker Programme, an initiative that aims to have all hawker centres in Singapore offer healthier hawker food in 3 years. In addition, CEOs from 51 food companies and eating establishments have put their names to a pledge to work with HPB to wipe out 25 billion calories from the food supply chain by 2013.

2. According to the 2010 National Health Survey, obesity rates are on the rise, with one in 10 Singapore residents classified as obese. This rise has been attributed to an increased number of people eating out and being physically inactive.

3. The proportion of Singapore residents who usually eat out at least 4 times a week at hawker centres, food courts and coffee shop stalls for meals, has increased from 49% in 2004 to 60% in 2010. Preliminary analysis showed that people who usually eat out at such venues consumed 200 kcal more or about 10% more than those who seldom eat out.

4. HPB Chief Executive Officer Mr Ang Hak Seng said, “The fight against obesity is an urgent one. Singapore residents are eating more. Preliminary results from the Health Promotion Board’s 2010 National Nutrition Survey showed that seven in 10 exceed their recommended calorie requirements. Among them, about 15% consume at least twice the recommended allowance.”

5. Mr Ang added, “We are working with the community as well as the private sector to bring down our obesity rates. We have engaged the help of the food industry to reduce the amount of calories in our food and this will trim 25 billion calories from the food supply chain over the next three years. Together with an equal amount of calories expended through physical activity, we can stem the rise of obesity in the local population.”

Healthier Hawker Programme

6. To tackle the issues of eating out and obesity, HPB has worked closely with the people, public and private sectors to develop a sustainable model for healthier food supply. From April 2011, HPB has partnered the South West Community Development Council, Yuhua grassroots organisations, as well as other government partners such as the National Environmental Agency (NEA) and the People’s Association (PA) to launch the healthier hawker programme to provide healthier food options.

7. For a start, the healthier hawker programme launched at Yuhua Hawker Centre has 90% of the hawkers offering a wide range of healthier ingredients, such as brown rice and wholegrain noodles in their menus. This is especially timely as preliminary results of the 2010 National Nutrition Survey showed that close to 90% of the population consumed less than two servings of whole-grain foods each day.

8. Noodles were identified as one of the main ways of increasing whole-grain intake as almost nine in 10 Singapore residents consume noodles at least once a week. A bowl of noodles prepared using whole-grain noodles will provide about half the daily amount of wholegrains recommended for adults. Evidence suggests that people who have a diet rich in wholegrains cut their risk of becoming overweight by 50% compared to people who rarely consume consume whole-grains.

9. Besides whole-grain ingredients, hawkers in Yuhua Hawker Centre will use cooking oil with reduced saturated fat and offer customers reduced-sugar drinks with HPB’s Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS). Customers can easily identify participating stalls through the HCS on their food hygiene decal. Stalls will also sport menu boards with the lower-calorie dishes identified by the HCS, as well as the calorie count of these items and decals publicising their healthier offerings.

Pledge to trim 25 billion calories

10. In addition to hawker centres, HPB is working with other sectors of the food industry, and a total of 51 food manufacturers, supermarkets, restaurants, caterers and food courts have put their names to a pledge to remove 25 billion calories from the food supply chain by 2013. These include both local Small Medium Sized Enterprises such as Sakura and New Moon, food giants such as Nestle, F & N and Unilever, and the Kopitiam and Swenson’s food chains.

11. A reduction of 25 billion calories from the food supply over 3 years together with an equivalent amount of calories expended through physical activity is estimated to stem the 1% rise in obesity rate among the local population.

12. Over the next three years, food manufacturers have committed to modify or introduce food products with reduced calories such as healthier breads, noodles, children’s milk and snacks. The food service sector has also committed to provide healthier fare that includes a wide variety of cuisines such as Japanese, French, western cuisines, as well as favourite local fare. Participating retailers, such as NTUC FairPrice will be embarking on more education campaigns for their shoppers as well as looking at increasing the number of HCS items in their basket of housebrand items.

13. Please refer to Annex A for more information on the food pledge.

Annex A: Information Sheet - Healthier Food Pledge

Issued by Health Promotion Board