PETALING JAYA: In a bid to reduce the nation’s sugar intake and deter the rise of Non Communicable Diseases (NCD), the Health Ministry (MOH) has introduced a drinks grading system.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said the ministry has plans to implement the system according to sugar content in “the near future”, in taking a leaf out of Singapore’s playbook.

“Our neighbouring country Singapore has classified the sugar content in beverages through categories A, B, C and D,” he said, according to a report by Berita Harian.

Singapore has implemented a mandatory label called Nutri-Grade since December 2022 - regulating beverages from pre-packaged to non-customisable sold in the country, according to Singapore’s Health Promotion Board.

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The mandatory label is colour-coded into four categories from dark green (A) to bright red (D). Grade A corresponds with the lowest amount of sugar and saturated fat while grade D corresponds with the highest amount of sugar and saturated fat.

Dzulkefly added that mass advocacy campaigns to reduce the nation’s sugar intake will be held through already implemented initiatives among which are through physical approach – charging excise tax to sugary drinks and pre-mixed beverages, led by the Finance Ministry and the Royal Customs Department.

However, he has not indicated a specific period of time for the implementation of the beverage grading system.

Dzulkefly also pointed out that data from the 2023 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) showed that one in two Malaysians are obese and overweight.

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“Overweight and obese individuals are at risk of getting type two diabetes and are at higher risk of getting cancer and diseases related to the accumulation of fat cells in the liver.

“Therefore, the war on sugar is in line with efforts to reduce diabetes and other NCD related illnesses,” he added.

A report by Galen Centre quoted findings from the NHMS 2023 report stating that over two million Malaysians currently live with three types of NCD such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol while half a million Malaysians have four NCDs including obesity.