NEWS : FEATURES
Chocolates, Ice Creams And Eggs: Fact Or Myth
01 , 2002
By D Sundara Raja
KUALA LUMPUR, May 1 (Bernama)-- Luscious chocolates,
ice creams and eggs, traditionally said to be high in
cholesterol but hard to resist when served, are now
being labelled as cholesterol-free by manufacturers.
There are also other claims such as sugar-free,
preservative-free or no artificial flavours,
no-caffeine in the labels of many food items and
So people can gobble them down as and when they get an
opportunity or will tucking into a bar of chocolate
leave you with an aftertaste of guilt.
Are the manufacturers capitalising on the Malaysian
public's growing health consciousness or are the
products genuinely cholesterol-free? These are
questions many people, particularly those suffering
from heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and
other ailments, ponder about before consuming these
The Federation of Malaysian Consumers' Associations (Fomca)
president prof Hamdan Adnan says the public trend to
be healthy and slim have created a lot of products
which were supposed to maintain their health status.
He says many people have a fear of getting a heart
attack and cholesterol is a major contributor towards
"Therefore it isn't surprising that a lot of
companies are trying to make use of this fear against
heart disease by having the no-cholesterol
claim," say Prof Hamdan.
He says among the products popularly claimed to be
cholesterol-free are cooking oil, eggs, butter and
"I think it is very difficult for the consumer to
know the truth of the claims," he says.
Hamdan suggests because it's a health claim, any
manufacturer making the claim for his product should
have the approval of the health ministry and the
ministry should verify the claim so that consumers
"I think the health ministry should look into
this as it is already a requirements for most drugs to
be registered with the ministry and so they should
also register any product making a health claim,"
Once the products were registered, their contents
would be revealed, he explains.
Puan Nik Shabnam Nik Mohd Salleh, Principal Assistant
Director of the Health Ministry's Food Quality Control
unit says the ministry doesn't consider the claims as
health claims but they could be considered under the
proposed new Nutrition Labelling and Claims law.
She says the Food Regulations 1985, which would be
amended to include the proposed law, is expected to be
enforced this year after the industries have been
given a grace period to make the changes in their
labels and other product literature.
Industries are permitted to make three types of
nutrition claims namely: nutrient content claim,
nutrition comparative claim and nutrient function
Nik Shabnam says health claims, which are entirely
different from NFCs, aren't permitted under the
proposed new regulations.
A NFC describes a specific role of the nutrient in
growth, development and normal functions of the body.
Examples are; Calcium helps in the development of
strong bones and teeth; Protein helps build and repair
body tissues, and Iron is a factor in red blood cell
Health claim means any representation that states,
suggests, or implies that a relationship exists
between a food or a constituent of that food and
health. Such claims could include reduction of disease
risk claims which relate to the consumption of a food
or food constituent.
Meanwhile, a nutrient content claim describes the
level of a nutrient contained in a food while a
nutrition comparative claim compares the nutrient
levels and or energy value of two or more food.
On Hamdans suggestion to verify the claims, she says
the Health Ministry won't verify the claims because it
was the responsibility of the product manufacturers or
"The onus is on the industries to comply,"
SAMPLES ANALYSED ON RANDOM BASIS
However, she says the ministry does enforcement by
taking samples and analysing them on a random basis.
Citing claims made on bread labels as an example, she
says samples are tested for protein and vitamin
contents to verify if the producers' claims are true.
"If the results are different from what was
claimed, then we can take them to court and charge
them," she says.
But she says food products don't have to be registered
like what is being done for drugs.
"People who want to produce labels for food items
do come to us for advice and we do it for free,"
As to cholesterol claims, the proposed law on
Nutrition Labelling and claims only says how the
labelling of cholesterol and dietary fibre level
should be made.
It stipulates that the amount of cholesterol should be
expressed in mg per 100 g or per 100ml or per package
if the package contains only a single portion.
To make a claim that a food is "cholesterol
free," it should't contain more than 0.005 g of
cholesterol per 100 g for solid food and not more than
0.005 g cholesterol per 100 ml for liquids.
In the case of dietary fibre, it should be expressed
in a g per 100 g or 100 ml or per package if the
package contains only a single portion. In addition
this information should be given per serving as
quantified on the label.
Hamdan says consumers should also ensure their
lifestyle and eating habits are healthy besides
looking at alternative natural products that are low
How can the public know if the product is
cholesterol-free? National Heart Institute Dietitian
Puan Mary Easaw-John says if it is an animal product,
then the cholesterol must be taken off completely.
People with health problems should not be taking any
food simply and should be conscientious, she adds.
The consumers should also see what kind of evidence is
given to back the health claims such as scientific
data, personal testimony or some flimsy reasons.
"The public would never know what is put into
some of these products and there may be heavy metal or
steroids in them," warned Mary.