Pass the salt tax, please

dhillon

PETALING JAYA: It is high time salt is taxed, say consumer groups concerned over the deteriorating health of Malaysians.

Malaysia Consumer Movement president Darshan Singh Dhillon said any move to introduce tax on the item would have the support of the group.

“Taxing the item may not be a popular move but it will definitely have a long-term tangible benefit, and we would support the move,” he told FMT.

Darshan said studies showed that over-consumption of salt had adverse effects on health.

“Most Malaysians are not health conscious, and that is causing us to become an obese nation.

“It also costs the government billions of ringgit in healthcare for the people when the money can be put to other important uses.”

Darshan said those in the food business should also play a role in safeguarding the health of consumers.

“The food industry has an equal responsibility to ensure that safe and healthy food is made available.

Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam last June said about 6.1 million Malaysians suffered from hypertension and 9.6 million had a high cholesterol level. He said 3.3 million Malaysians were obese.

All three diseases are linked to a high intake of sodium chloride, also known as salt.

Salt, along with sugar and cooking oil, is an essential item that is not subjected to the GST.

The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) said the government should impose a “sin tax” on food that contains a high amount of salt to deter consumers from consuming too much salt.

Health experts recommend an ideal limit of no more than 1,500mg of sodium per day for most adults and “one teaspoon of salt is already about 2,000mg of sodium,” said the CAP spokesman.

Sodium can also lurk in processed foods, which is why it is important to read the labels, as well as in natural foods such as cheese, seafood, olives and some legumes.

In 2008, the World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) in the UK launched a global movement to improve the health of populations across the world by a gradual reduction in salt intake.

Most people consume nine to 12 grammes of salt daily, which is far too much. The group aims to reduce the per person salt consumption to 5g per day.

WASH runs Salt Awareness Week from March 20 to 26 every year to highlight the importance of salt reduction.