Monday, July 18, 2011


Is it not amazing that a small country like Singapore can implement a policy of guiding its citizens on the health quality of packed foods through simple symbols understood easily by the consumers while giants like China and India are still groping in the dark regarding the need for consumer protection? What is still more impressive is that more than two thirds of the population are already familiar with the Healthier Choice Symbols (HCS) one finds in most of the products in the retail market. The scheme is based on the composition of products with importance being given to some of the negative and positive health ingredients. Extent of unhealthy ingredients like sugar, fat, saturated fat, salt etc and healthy ones like fiber, calcium present in processed food products determines the eligibility for awarding the HCS symbol.Why other countries cannot follow this simple scheme is some thing not understandable.

To date, there are guidelines covering over 60 food categories. To find out if your product is eligible for the HCS, download the updated nutrition guidelines here You can also view the list of products currently carrying the HCS here. The Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) on packaged food products indicates that they are healthier options and this helps consumers to make informed food choices when grocery shopping. Products carrying the HCS are generally lower in total fat, saturated fat, sodium and sugar. Some are also higher in dietary fibre and calcium compared to similar products within the same food category. Each food category has a separate set of nutritional criteria to adhere to. For example, breads displaying the HCS should contain no trans fat, less sodium (≤450 mg/100g) and more dietary fibre (≥3g per 100g) compared to the regular bread. 3-in-1 coffee sachets, on the other hand contains no trans fat, less saturated fat (≤0.6 g/100ml) and less sugar (≤5 g/100ml) compared to regular 3-in-1 coffee powders.As part of the continual review process of the healthier choice guidelines to stay relevant, the HCS guidelines for the below categories has been reviewed.
Healthier Choice LogoHealthier Snack Logo

A variant of the HCS for snack foods, known as the Healthier Snack Symbol (HSS) has also recently been introduced. This category includes plain biscuits and cookies, crisps, ice-cream and plain cakes. Products which are eligible for the HSS are individually packed in small portions according to serving sizes reflected on the Nutrition Information Panel,and they are generally lower in fat, saturated fat, sodium or sugar compared to regular products. You can view the list of products currently carrying the HSS here by selecting "Healthier Snacks".

The Singapore innovation has no element of compulsion and as it is not mandatory individual manufacturer can decide whether to go for these symbols or not. When more and more players opt for availing of this facility, naturally there is going to be peer pressure forcing others also to fall in line. From consumer angle what a pleasure it is to go to a retail market and choose only those considered healthier as certified by the government without any need to strain one's eyes to read through the label information which is often unreadable or vague.


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