More than 90 percent of school lunches for primary school pupils examined by the Department of Health contained excessive sodium content compared with the recommended intake for a meal.
Excessive intake of sodium could lead to hypertension, which is a major cause of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Decreasing the dietary intake of salt to 5 grams per day in adults would reduce the risk of a stroke by 23 percent and that of cardiovascular diseases by 17 percent, according to the World Health Organization.
Under the [email protected] campaign, the government set up a committee in 2015 — Working Group on Promoting Healthy School Lunch — with a panel consisting of representatives from primary school principal associations, school lunch suppliers and other stakeholders.
The working group recommended six school lunch suppliers to participate in a pilot project on sodium reduction from September to December 2016.
These are Asia Pacific Catering Corp. Ltd.-Luncheon Star, Danny Catering Service Ltd., Delicious Chef King Catering Ltd., Hearty Meal (a member of Maxim’s Group), LSG Catering China Ltd. and Sailing Boat Luncheon Production Ltd.
The group also recommended a cut in sodium levels of 16 school lunch menus by up to 35 percent, with the use of less seasoning or modification of recipes.
Based on the results, the Department of Health rolled out the Salt Reduction Scheme for School Lunches in the new school year.
A total of 13 lunch suppliers participate in the scheme and will supply sodium-reduced lunches to about 440 primary schools. As of mid-September, these suppliers have provided about 280 sodium-reduced lunch options to schools, with the average level of sodium being reduced by 9 percent. All the receipts and nutrition content are reviewed and tested by the department.
Participating schools are encouraged to help monitor lunches with reference to the Nutritional Guidelines on Lunch for Students, while parents can lend their support by using less sodium-containing seasonings in their diet at home.
The guideline stipulates that lunch suppliers should not serve items belonging to the “limited food items” category, such as fatty cuts of meat and poultry with skin like beef brisket, spare ribs, chicken wings, chicken thighs as well as processed/preserved meat, egg and vegetable products, on more than two school days per week, given five school days in a week, in order to restrict intake of fat, salt and sugar by students.
French fries, deep-fried pork chops, salted fish and salted egg, food items with added lard, chicken fat, butter, cream, among others, are strongly discouraged in all menu choices for students.
The government established the Committee on Reduction of Salt and Sugar in Food in 2015, a statutory body responsible for making recommendations to the Secretary for Food and Health to reduce the intake of salt and sugar by the public, as well as to reduce salt and sugar in food.
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