Battling the sweet smell of excess
The Ministry of Public Health wants to reduce the incidence of "sweet tooth" in half the country's population, said Sathit Pitutecha, deputy public health minister.
The ministry on Wednesday launched the second phase of "Less sweet, make your choices". "The [first phase of] the eating less sweet campaign has changed consumers' habits and aims to this year get at least 50% of Thai people to adopt a healthy habit of ordering less sweet drinks," he said via teleconference.
Launched in March, the first "Less sweet, make your choices" campaign also involved working with 10 popular coffee shop chains that altogether have 11,471 branches across the country where consumers can make their own choices as to how much less sweet their beverages should be.
Following the success of urging about 35.5% of consumers to watch their daily sugar intake and adopt a healthy habit of eating and drinking less sweet food and beverages, the Public Health Ministry has set a target to make half of the population kick the sweet eating habit.
The first phase made great strides as campaign monitoring showed 35.5% becoming more aware about the amount of sugar intake and level of sweetness in their beverages. A survey conducted between last December and January this year also found a high rate (48.2%) of public awareness of the project's campaign logo, Mr Sathit said.
For the second phase, the Department of Health developed an mobile phone app "Food4Health", for consumers to calculate their intake of sugar content in drinks. The app can also certify beverages that meet the campaign's standard for less sugar and pinned the GPS locations of where the certified drinks are served, he said.
"The app helps improve the food and nutrition environment for people, with an aim of improving their access to healthy drinks, which will lead to habit change for better health," he said.
Department director-general Dr Suwanchai Wattanayingcharoenchai said in the second phase of the project, the department had gained more partners to help give the project more momentum. They include the Thailand office of the World Health Organisation and civic health groups, "Khon Thai Rai Phung" (a network of Thai people with lean bellies) and ''Dek Thai Mai Kin Wan'' (a network of Thai children who don't eat sweet food), The Mall Group and Central Food Retail Co, along with coffee and tea shop chains such as Black Canyon and Cha Payom, he said.