PUTRAJAYA: Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced a pilot project that will begin next year to help people make better and healthier food choices.
Starting with Putrajaya, the project aims to educate people about the amount of calories in food to see if people will be moved to make better choices.
"The food and nutrition department of the Health Ministry will be carrying out a pilot project by the beginning of next year for a period of six months to a year to put calorie information on the menu at certain eateries and restaurants in and around Putrajaya," Khairy said.
"We are still at the planning phase and we are identifying the cafeterias and restaurants that will take part in this pilot project.
"The ministry will prepare the calorie information so that cafeteria and restaurant owners do not need to spend money to engage a nutritionist to do so.
"We just need their cooperation to publish the calorie information on the menu and determine if the information sparks a change in food choices, whether people eat less and make healthier food choices.
"If this pilot project succeeds, it may be expanded to other eateries and restaurants across the country. We will also begin with cafeterias at the ministry and identify those at other ministries."
He said the Health Ministry took evidence-based approaches, so the pilot project could lead to a decision on whether to make calorie labelling on menus compulsory.
For now, calorie labelling on menus is done on a voluntary basis.
Khairy said some countries made it compulsory, but the ministry would check the data and feedback before arriving at a decision.
On the possibility of the government imposing tax on food with excess salt, Khairy said this would not happen anytime soon.
"We are still assessing and studying the feasibility of such a move. We do not want tax to have an unwanted negative impact, especially on the cost of food. We will study the effectiveness and impact of the sugar tax first. We want to see what is the best approach."
On the tobacco generational endgame to ban the use, possession and sale of cigarettes and vape products to those born after 2007, Khairy said he had done his best and it was up to the government that is formed after the general election to decide on the bill.
He said he would be supportive regardless of whether he is still a member of parliament or an ordinary member of society by then.
"Regardless of my position after this, I hope that after the election, the new health minister and government will not bow down to tobacco companies. I hope we are not held captive by the big tobacco companies."
Khairy was speaking after the launch of the module for the Trim & Fit Weight Management Programme for all ministries and departments at the Health Ministry here yesterday.
"The beginning is the toughest to become healthier, fitter, more energetic and stronger. There cannot be excuses to lead a better, healthier life. Good health is for our own good."
On his political future, Khairy, who is Rembau member of parliament, had said on Tuesday that whether or not he would be fielded in the 15th General Election or where he would contest would be decided by the Umno top leadership.
He said he would abide by the party's decision.