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Improving effectiveness of Healthier Choice Symbol and a more robust food health rating system

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Chua Kheng Wee Louis
MP for Sengkang GRC

Question No. 798

To ask the Minister for Health (a) whether there are plans to create a more robust food health rating system on a graduated scale instead of the binary Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS); (b) how is the effectiveness of the HCS at influencing food purchases being determined and what is the result so far; and (c) whether the Government has a review system in place to improve effectiveness of HCS labelling and on monitoring social marketing campaigns led by food companies on consumers’ purchasing patterns.

Written Answer

The Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) is a front-of-pack label with a simple, visual identifier to help consumers identify healthier food products and ingredients easily. Products with the HCS are lower in fat, saturated fat, sodium, sugar or higher in dietary fibre, calcium and wholegrains compared to regular products within the same food categories. Compared to a graduated scale, such labels enable consumers to process basic nutritional information more quickly. Hence, there are currently no plans to develop a food health rating system on a graduated scale.

The HCS is widely recognised and used by Singaporeans to guide their food purchases. It has also spurred food manufacturers and suppliers to reformulate and launch healthier products, leading to an increase in market share of HCS products from 18% in 2016 to 28% in 2020. A recent study conducted by Duke-NUS found that HCS positively influences consumer demand for healthier foods.

The Ministry of Health and HPB regularly review the HCS nutrient guidelines to stay relevant to the latest consumption trends and new scientific evidences, and to address nutritional gaps in Singaporeans’ diets. This is done through extensive review of literature, local market conditions and consultation with food industry and academic experts. For example, in response to findings from the National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 2018 on Singaporeans’ increasing sugar intake from foods such as confectionary, desserts and sauces, the HCS criteria for sugar were lowered for selected sugary foods (e.g. ice-cream, yoghurt) in 30 Apr 2020.

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