DH launches Salt Reduction Scheme for School Lunches
Hong Kong (HKSAR) - The Department of Health (DH) has launched the Salt Reduction Scheme for School Lunches (Scheme) for the 2017/18 school year, under which 13 participating school lunch suppliers will supply sodium-reduced lunches to around 440 primary schools in Hong Kong starting from September 2017.
Under the Scheme, which aims to reduce the sodium level of school lunches, participating lunch suppliers have pledged to provide sodium-reduced lunch options in 2 per cent to 90 per cent of all the lunch options available for schools each month. They will submit recipes of such school lunches to the DH for assessing the sodium level and amount of sodium reduction. As of mid-September 2017, participating lunch suppliers have committed to provide around 280 sodium-reduced lunch options to schools in the 2017/18 school year, with the average level of sodium reduction being 9 per cent.
The Assistant Director of Health (Health Promotion), Dr Anne Fung, today (September 14) said it is hoped that the Scheme will gradually lower the sodium level of school lunches with a recommended average reduction of 5 per cent to 10 per cent each year, with a target of cutting down the average sodium level of each primary school lunchbox to not more than 500mg in 10 years.
Dr Fung said, "Excessive intake of sodium could lead to hypertension, which is a major cause of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
Results of the Thematic Household Survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department revealed that the prevalence of diagnosed hypertension in Hong Kong rose from 9.3 per cent in 2008 to 12.6 per cent in 2014, while according to data from the DH’s Student Health Service, the rate of referral of primary and secondary students with suspected hypertension for further management increased from 0.4 per cent in 2011/12 to 0.8 per cent in 2015/16. Such statistics show that it is important to support our children to develop healthy eating habits to prevent the development of non-communicable diseases such as hypertension."
According to the World Health Organization, decreasing dietary intake of salt to 5g per day would reduce the risk of stroke by 23 per cent and that of cardiovascular diseases by 17 per cent.
Dr Fung said, "A phased sodium reduction approach, which aligns with the recommendations and strategies adopted by the Committee on Reduction of Salt and Sugar in Food and other international sodium reduction efforts, helps students' palates gradually adapt to the change in taste and increases their acceptance of less sodium in foods."
She added that apart from launching the Scheme, the DH planned to conduct the Nutrient Testing of School Lunches in Primary Schools in Hong Kong jointly with the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department’s Centre for Food Safety in early 2018. School lunch samples would be collected randomly from all primary schools in Hong Kong for nutrient testing to examine the amount of energy and nutrient content including sodium.
The results of the testing would help to review the measures needed to achieve the sodium reduction target.
Dr Fung thanked the 13 school lunch suppliers for their participation and appealed for support from schools and parents. While schools can help monitor school lunches with reference to the "Nutritional Guidelines on Lunch for Students", parents can help by using less sodium in their diet at home, thus creating all-round efforts in reducing students' sodium intake and building a solid foundation for their long-term health.
According to the Nutrient Testing of School Lunches in Primary Schools in Hong Kong conducted by the DH in 2013, the sodium content in over 90 per cent of the examined lunches exceeded the recommended intake for a meal, with some samples even exceeding the recommended daily intake, leading to calls for action to address the problem of excessive sodium intake among students.
Under the recommendation of the Working Group on Promoting Healthy School Lunch set up by the DH, six school lunch suppliers participated in the Pilot Project on Sodium Reduction in School Lunch Boxes from September to December 2016 and cut down the sodium levels of 16 school lunch options by 3 per cent to 35 per cent with the use of less seasoning or modification of recipes. Over 107 000 sodium-reduced lunchboxes were sold, with only one feedback about bland taste received.
The order rates of the lunch boxes also did not differ significantly before and after sodium reduction.
More information on the Scheme is available at the DH's thematic website (http://school.eatsmart.gov.hk/" target="_blank">school.eatsmart.gov.hk).
Published on: 2017-09-14
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