Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Public Health Crisis Called S-U-G-A-R

Can you tell a rock to roll uphill? Unlike Canute, can you order the tide to turn back to sea? Will porcine meat animals suddenly develop wings and take to an aerial mode of travel?

People respond to incentives, not exhortations (excerpt, emphasis added):

Cut down sugar intake, public urged

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians need to cut down on their sugar intake as it would not only be beneficial to their health, but also save on the Government's spending on subsidies.

Last year, the Government spent RM262.41mil in subsidies and it would be spending RM567mil this year due to the increased price of the commodity, the Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism Ministry said.

“If we can reduce our intake of sugar, the money spent on this subsidy could be extended to subsidise other commodities,” said its minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob yesterday…

Malaysia is the eighth highest sugar consumer in the world and the fourth highest in Asia.

The Health Ministry recently revealed that Malaysians consume excess sugar, adding an average of seven teaspoons of sugar to their drinks daily.

This does not include the hidden sugar contained in other food and beverage consumed each day.

According to Health director-general Datuk Seri Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman, consumers should not add more than two teaspoons of sugar into their tea or coffee each day…

The easiest way, the simplest and healthiest way, and most of all the way that’s cheapest on the public purse, is to get rid of the sugar subsidy entirely. And do a public health campaign at the same time, if there’s any doubt the public would support abolishment (which I don’t think for a minute).

Sugar isn’t petrol, a necessity (and expensive necessity) for many Malaysians. But sugar and spice are toppings and flavourings, not the whole meal. We can do with less, with the proper monetary incentive (and a little bit of knowledge).


  1. Most of the direct sugar consumption goes to manufacturers.Thats the first place to impose restrictions and induce change.

  2. The manufacturers get the subsidies, but they don't "consume" the sugar, they sell it. It still goes back to Malaysians consuming too much sugar - we have an incipient obesity epidemic, and one of the highest incidences of diabetes in the world. That doesn't come from manufacturers.

    I'm absolutely in favour of breaking up the sugar monopoly (even if it hits Felda settlers pockets), but that won't solve the end-consumer problem.

  3. Don't subsidise them..let them cut cost by reducing sugar content in their products.Do they enjoy the subsidies for stuff they export?