‘Siew dai’ could be default option for your morning kopi or teh
By the end of the year, your morning kopi or teh at hawker centres could come with less sugar as a default.
The Health Promotion Board (HPB) is set to roll out an outreach and publicity campaign to encourage food and beverage operators to make “siew dai”, or beverages with less sugar in local parlance, the norm.
Health authorities are hoping to build on the momentum of the successful launch of a nutrition labelling scheme for prepackaged drinks.
Introduced in December 2022, the Nutri-Grade initiative has spurred companies to reformulate their products by reducing sugar content. Close to two-thirds of pre-packaged beverages in the market are now graded A or B, which are the two healthier grades out of four.
Since the announcement of the measures in 2020, the median sugar level of pre-packaged beverages has been reduced from 7.1 per cent in 2017 to 4.6 per cent in 2021.
The Nutri-Grade scheme will be rolled out for freshly prepared beverages by the end of 2023. Outlets like coffee shops and bubble tea stalls will be required to include the Nutri-Grade labels on displayed menus.
Small stalls are exempted from this requirement for a start. These include those that earn a revenue of not more than $1 million in the latest financial year, and those that sell those beverages at fewer than 10 food premises.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said at an event on Wednesday: “The new measures will likely have a strong salutary effect. It will raise awareness of the harm of excessive sugar consumption. And just as manufacturers of pre-packaged beverages reformulated their drinks, we hope many drinks outlets will reduce the sweetness of their drinks when the requirement comes into force.”
It is an opportune time to reshape habits, he added.
Using local beverage terms, Mr Ong described the ideal scenario: “That means if we order kopi or teh in the future, they are automatically siew dai. If we want more sugar, we have to order kopi ga dai (sweeter coffee) or teh ga dai. If we want even less sugar, we might as well order kopi or teh kosong.
“This is however a matter of consumer habits and choice, and not something the Ministry of Health can regulate… I hope the industry, coffee shops and hawkers will support this initiative when we implement it towards the end of this year,” he said.