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Sodium Taxes


Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Dr Lim Wee Kiak
MP for Sembawang GRC

Question No. 5266

To ask the Minister for Health (a) whether he can provide an update on the Government’s study on sodium taxes in countries where such measures have been implemented; (b) when will recommendations on policy changes arising from this study be put out; and (c) how does the Government intend to ensure that efforts to address sodium overconsumption do not inadvertently lead to increased business overhead costs and higher food prices. 


1        The Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) National Nutrition Survey 2022 showed that our intake of sodium is excessively high, which significantly increases the risk for hypertension, which can lead to diseases such as heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure.  We need to cut down on our consumption of sodium urgently.

2        Other countries have faced similar challenges, and MOH have studied what they have done.  Chile has implemented regulations in 2016 to require foods and 
drinks high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat to have a warning label.  So you can find such warning labels on soft drinks, sauces, processed meats, etc., in Chile. Finland has also successfully use food labelling laws to reduce salt consumption over the past three decades.  Hungary went further, as beyond identifying food items which have unhealthy levels of salt and sugar, it imposes a tax on it.

3        These are useful practices for us to learn from, but we do not intend to emulate any of these systems. For example, our Nutri-grade labelling measures for pre-packaged beverages has been very effective in bringing down sugar consumption. We should likewise tackle excessive sodium consumption in a way that is suited to our context.

4        In many European and Western countries, their main source of sodium is processed foods which households buy from shops or supermarkets. In Singapore, sodium comes mainly from added salt, sauces and seasonings, such as soya sauce, dark sauce, fish sauce and chili sauce, and we consumed them most when we eat out.

5        A key priority is therefore to work with the manufacturers of salt and sauces. Today, HPB offers grant support to salt and sauce suppliers to reformulate their products, through the Healthier Ingredient Development Scheme. As a result, lower-sodium alternatives are now more accessible.  Today, the wholesale price of most lower-sodium salt, sauces and seasonings supplied to food operators are comparable to that of regular versions. To date, HPB has garnered the commitment of 15 major manufacturers and food operators, representing over 30% of the retail market for sauces and seasonings and 10% of F&B market share, to increase the variety and demand of lower-sodium ingredients.

6        The other stakeholder to engage are food operators such as hawkers, restaurants, caterers, and chefs to promote the adoption of lower-sodium ingredients. We will have to explain to them the need to cut our sodium intake, introduce them to lower-sodium ingredients, as well as provide them with samples that they can try out, so that we can get to use these products.  We also hope that they will help us explain to the public, that salt is an acquired taste, and that if we over-consume it over some time, our taste buds will get accustomed to it and fail to taste other natural ingredients. We are planning a series of engagement sessions with them, including with the industry and professional associations.

7        Finally, HPB will also be stepping up its public education campaign. In Singapore, less salt often means more taste as it allows us to appreciate the natural flavours of the herbs, spices and other ingredients typically used in local cuisine. HPB will continue to educate Singaporeans on the need to cut sodium, increase their receptiveness to using lower-sodium ingredients and change the perception that we need more salt and sauces for flavourful dishes. It will conduct more activities, such as food sampling activities at supermarkets.

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