Ministry: Proposal to ban 24-hour eateries hard to swallow without proof

PETALING JAYA: A recent proposal by a consumer group to ban 24-hour eateries to combat obesity has received brickbats from Malaysians, although the Health Minister said the low “health literacy” and the needs of certain groups will have to be taken into account before doing so.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said there must be engagement with stakeholders of the 24-hour eatery ecosystem, as well as a well-prepared paper on the issue before the proposal is studied by the government.

He pointed out that it is better to prioritise the menu content and cleanliness of these eateries rather than ban their round-the-clock operations.

“Any claims such as the one brought by the Consumer Association of Penang (CAP) must be accompanied by empirical proof, and an objective and whole study.

“These 24-hour eateries fulfil the needs of certain groups such as frontliners. For example, the police, firemen, doctors, nurses, security forces and others.

“Supply-side restrictions such as closing these 24-hour eateries would cause difficulties to these groups,” said Dzulkefly.

He said the claim that 24-hour eateries were the main cause of obesity in Malaysia must not be accepted without proof, and that a high level of health literacy is needed to change the dietary pattern of the people.

“One in three Malaysians has low health literacy, and closing these 24-hour eateries does not guarantee consumers would not find alternatives. We also have to take into account the easy availability of food such as instant noodles and camping food.

“It must be remembered that bad eating habits and lack of physical activities are two main components which contribute to obesity. Each individual is responsible for his or her own eating habits and lifestyle,” said Dzulkefly.

On April 21, CAP president Mohideen Ab Kadir claimed that studies have shown that there are negative effects of late-night meals such as weight gain, sleep disorders and digestive issues.

“Presently, Malaysians are in an unhealthy situation as we have the highest prevalence of obesity among adults in South-East Asia. In the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey, 50.1% of our adult population were reported to be overweight (30.4%) or obese (19.7%),” said Mohideen, who added that research had also shown that individuals who eat late at night exceed 40% of their daily energy requirements, which pose a significant risk factor for obesity.

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24-hour eateries , obesity


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