More Stringent Steps required to Tackle Childhood Obesity

KUALA LUMPUR: The Education and Health ministries should come up with more stringent guidelines and checks on the types of food allowed to be sold in schools.

Association of School Canteen Operators of Malaysia (Ascom) president William Huee said, even more so, the enforcement agencies must regularly check on hawkers that sell food and drinks outside school compounds.

He said these steps were necessary to address the problem of childhood obesity.


“Most operators are no longer selling junk food and are adhering to the canteen food guidelines, but there are irresponsible ones that still do. The challenge also comes from hawkers who sell food outside the schools.

“These food and drinks are normally laden with preservatives and colouring, exceeding the amount permitted by the Health Ministry and are dangerous to health,” he told Bernama.

He claimed that he also discovered that some schools even had vending machines selling junk food and carbonated drinks. Besides obesity, he also cautioned that young children were exposed to the risk of suffering preventable diseases such as liver and heart problems and diabetes due to consuming too much of preservative-laden and processed food.

Huee, who has been a school canteen operator for 40 years, said he had been fined several times by the local authorities earlier in his business for selling unhealthy food.

However, in 1984, he embarked on a long-term campaign to create awareness among schoolchildren and adults on the dangers of consuming unhealthy food.

“My target is to create awareness for 1.5 million schoolchildren on the dangers of eating unhealthy food. We want to educate the children and to let them know that there are many healthy alternative food that they can choose from.

“The same goes for food vendors. For example, instead of carbonated drinks and ‘air sirap’, you can sell barley or ‘cincau’ drinks to the students. We need to make children’s health our priority, instead of looking just at making money,” Huee said.

National Cancer Society’s nutritionist Chan Wan Thung said parents played a major role in introducing and inculcating healthy eating habits in children.

“Studies have shown that if a child is obese and the problem is not addressed, the risk of him suffering from chronic diseases such as heart problems in adulthood, will be higher,” she said.

Chan said there were at least 11 types of cancer that were related to obesity, including colon cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, esophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer. — Bernama


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