Archive for the ‘Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) president S.M. Mohamed Idris’ Category

An average Malaysian eats the equivalent of 26 teaspoons of sugar a day. Doctors say this is leading to a rise in the number of diabetics in the country.

This is worrying health planners who want the government to discourage advertising of food products, particularly those aimed at children.

Health officials believe the sugar content in a product should be mentioned on the label in red, orange or green.

Early this year, the country was ranked the world’s eighth highest sugar user. According to a 2005 survey, Malaysians consumed 17 teaspoons of sugar per person per day in the 1970s. But Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) president S.M. Mohamed Idris says the consumption might have increased further by now.

Former Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Shahrir Abdul Samad confirmed that Malaysia is the eighth highest sugar user in the world.

Malaysians consume sugar in the form of soft drinks, condensed milk, flavoured drinks, junk food and even breakfast cereals.

Production is geared to the Malaysian sweet tooth.

A CAP survey revealed that some drinks and food contained 10 teaspoons of sugar in a single serving.

Idris said a brand of orange juice contained 40.8 teaspoons of sugar in a two-litre pack, while a brand of cordial syrup had 200 teaspoons in a two-litre bottle.

As a result, Idris said the International Diabetes Institute recorded Malaysia as having the fourth highest number of diabetics in Asia with 800,000 cases in 2007, which is expected to increase to 1.3 million in 2010.

“Sugar is linked to over 60 ailments such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart problems, osteoporosis, kidney problems, asthma and allergies.”

According to the health ministry’s statistics, 11.6 million of the 16 million adults nationwide are sick with a non-communicable disease like diabetes, hypertension or cancer.

“Malaysia has the most overweight and obese people in Asia with 54 percent of the adult population either being obese or overweight,” Idris said.

“CAP calls on the government to work with food manufacturers to avoid sugar in their products,” he added.

“The government should also stop advertisements of highly-sugared drinks and food during children’s television viewing hours, and educate school children and the public on the dangers of excessive sugar intake,” Idris said.


A woman shops for vegetables in a Beijing market.

I am deeply troubled by the Chinese milk scandal which is making waves around the world and thus has created increasingly food safety paranoia, with many countries banning or restricting melamine tainted milk products, fruits and vegetables imported from China.

So, what is this melamine thing which is causing so much havoc, misery and death and has received so much attention around the world in so short a time?

Melamine the word, was coined by combining the names of 2 chemicals – Melam and Amine. Melamine is the chemical name. Melamine was first synthesized by a German chemist by the name of Justus von Liebig in 1834. Melamine is a white crystalline compound C3H6N6.

Melamine is an industrial chemical use for making plastics, foam, cleaning products, fabrics, glues and is one of the major components in “Pigment Yellow 150” which is a colourant in inks and plastics.

Melamine when mixed with watered-down milk can make the milk appear richer in protein acting as a decoy protein enhancer. It is said that if 1 liter of milk with melamine is added with water, it can produce 4 liters of milk and the protein test will show that the milk is high in protein and it will surely pass the milk test.

Melamine is also used as a fertiliser for crops because of its high nitrogen contents. Melamine is also used as a pesticide and this is going to ring alarm bells for sure.

Cyromazine is a derivative of melamine. Cyromazine is a pesticide which metabolises into melamine in animals and plants. In simple language, melamine is formed in the body of mammals who have ingested the pesticide cyromazine. And in plants, cyromazine is converted into melamine after being sprayed with cyromazine pesticide.

Cyromazine is a systemic poison which means that if insects feeding on a plant to which a systemic poison has been applied will die soon after ingestion. Cyromazine pesticide is used to control leaf miners in vegetables and fruits. In china, cyromazine is used commonly as a foliar spray to control leaf miner insects in star fruits, guava, mandarin oranges, melons, tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli and Chinese cabbages.

So the presence of melamine in fruits and vegetables imported from China is high. That’s why the South Korean government recently highlighted the usage of the pesticide cyromazine by Chinese farmers.

Now the million dollar question is: DO OUR FARMERS IN SABAH also use the pesticide cyromazine? The answer is YES.

Remember the article in Daily Express on 6th July, 2008, “Sabahans Still Being Poisoned“, where I mentioned that banned pesticides are available and is used by the farmers in Sabah, and I specifically mentioned a product called NEPOREX.

Well, this product Neporex contains cyromazine a derivative of melamine. This product is used extensively by the farmers in China and due to the usage of this product the South Korean government discovered melamine contents in the vegetables and fruits imported from China.

Sets new alarm bells ringing? Sure it does!

And what are the symptoms and signs of melamine poisoning other than stone in the kidney? Irritability, blood in urine, little or no urine, kidney infection, high blood pressure and constant pain in the stomach are the signs of melamine poisoning.

The Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai, in Kota Kinabalu recently, said that the level four check will be applied at all food products including vegetables and fruits imported from China, whereby samples will be taken for safety analysis before it is released in the market. He said this after the South Korean government found melamine contents in vegetables and fruits imported from China.

While it may be reassuring that certain preventive steps have been taken by the Health Ministry, the public also knows that the scope of imported food stuff is so vast and therefore effective public safety is doubtful.

And if cyromazine is used as a pesticide locally by our farmers, which we know they are, then, the contamination spread of melamine could be severely underestimated.

And the Health Minister, saying that melamine screening is only done on imported food from China and not saying anything on the local fruits and vegetables does not make sense at all. Comprehensive safeguards are needed not only for imported food originating from China but also vegetables and fruits from here, which is also a suspect.

And perhaps, the Health Minister should also let the public know if we actually have enough screening facilities/laboratories to test melamine/cyromazine, other than the Chemistry Department in Kota Kinabalu.

The Health Ministry must be on the top of the situation and remain constantly vigilant and should work more closely with the public and let the public know of the real situation and don’t hide the facts. The Health Ministry should be pro-active and lead in the drive for public safety and awareness and not just wait for complaints and medical casualties before acting, as damage would have already been done. If there are any weaknesses in the delivery system the Health Ministry should admit it and try to rectify it.

Malaysia must also not be too dependent on foreign health institutes to obtain findings for us, instead, we should work for a credible research of our own and it must be available everywhere in Malaysia, especially, Sabah and Sarawak. A competent state-of-art food research agency is a must for Sabah and Sarawak and check and test should be mandatory.

Perhaps, it is high time Malaysia takes a serious view on consumer health protection.

Selvaraja has been involved in the pesticide industry for 20 over years and he can be contacted at or 

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