'Healthier choice' compares food in same categories

We thank Madam Niazmeen Bibi Akram Khan for sharing her views on her daughter's school canteen allowing dishes made with the Healthier Choice Symbol-certified instant noodles to be sold (Unhealthy food presented as 'healthier choice' in schools; Oct 11).

The Healthy Meals in Schools Programme (HMSP) now adopted by all mainstream schools in Singapore requires schools to cut down on saturated fat, sugar and salt, and to include more wholegrain content, fruits and vegetables in the meals sold.

Meals should also incorporate food from the four main food groups - brown rice and wholemeal bread, meat and others, vegetables, and fruits.

Drinks served in schools should contain no more than 6g of sugar per 100ml and should not contain any intense sweeteners. Schools are also required to have at least two working water coolers within the canteen area.

Under the HMSP guidelines, only instant noodles with the Healthier Choice Symbol are allowed for sale. Products with the symbol indicate that they are healthier options compared with other products within the same category.

Products carrying the Healthier Choice Symbol are higher in dietary fibre and calcium, and generally lower in total fat, saturated fat, sodium and sugar, compared to similar products within the same food or beverage category.

In this case, instant noodles with the Healthier Choice Symbol are lower in fat, as the noodles are usually baked or air-dried instead of fried, contain lower amount of sodium and have more wholegrain content than other instant noodles in the market.

The Healthier Choice Symbol was introduced by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) to encourage consumers to switch to healthier alternatives within categories of food and beverage products. This is to influence the shifting of norms and lightening of palates among Singaporeans over time.

The HPB's view is that there is no intrinsically bad food or good food. Eating healthy is about maintaining a balanced diet and eating in moderation. We do not encourage the excessive consumption of any food, including those labelled with the Healthier Choice Symbol.

The Healthier Choice Symbol programme is an evolving one which is continuously reviewed, and the HPB will continue to partner the industry to expand the range of healthier alternatives.

Alex Fun

Director, School Health and Outreach Division

Health Promotion Board

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2017, with the headline ''Healthier choice' compares food in same categories'. Print Edition | Subscribe