Malaysia To Introduce Grading System On Sugary Drinks To Combat Diabetes

The National Health and Morbidity Survey 2023 revealed that diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in Malaysia.

Cover image via Bernama/New Straits Times & Mayuko Tani/Nikkei Asia

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The Health Ministry will soon introduce a grading system for sugary drinks to combat diabetes and obesity in the country

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said the effort will be part of the ministry's large-scale 'War On Sugar' campaign advocating for reduced sugar consumption in an effort to stem the rise of non-communicable diseases among Malaysians.

"Obesity in adults has increased. One of the reasons for this rise is excessive sugar consumption," he told reporters on Thursday, 16 May.

"Soon, the ministry will introduce a grading system for sweetened drinks based on the amount of sugar the drinks contain.

"This is similar to (what has been done by) our neighbours across the causeway, where the level of sugar in drinks is graded A,B,C, or D," he explained, as quoted by the New Straits Times.

Dr Dzulkefly, however, did not specify a timeline for the implementation.

In Singapore, all beverages, pre-packaged or freshly prepared, are graded according to their sugar content

All packaged drinks, drink stalls, and restaurants are required to display the Nutri-Grade classification on their products or drink menus.

According to the Singapore Health Ministry, Grade A drinks have the lowest sugar and saturated fat content, while Grade D have the highest.

An example of the Nutri-Grade classification in Singapore.

Image via Mayuko Tani/Nikkei Asia

The National Health and Morbidity Survey 2023 revealed that diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in Malaysia, with one in six Malaysian adults having the disease

Dr Dzulkefly said data from the survey also showed that one in two Malaysians were obese and overweight.

"People who are overweight and obese are at risk of diabetes. They also are at higher risk of having cancer and fatty liver diseases.

"Therefore, the 'War On Sugar' is related to reducing the incidences of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases," he said.

Malay Mail also quoted Health deputy director general Datuk Dr Norhayati Rusli as saying that Malaysians have high health literacy but their actions do not reflect it.

The National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019 already revealed that the prevalence of obesity among Malaysians was high:

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