Figures from the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 show that 17.7% of the population is obese, while a further 30% are overweight.
“The obesity prevalence have increased drastically from 4.4% in 1996 and 14% in 2006,” said health minister S. Subramaniam as the survey’s results were announced.
“This then increased to 15.1% in 2011 and continued to increase to 17.7% in 2015. The prevalence of adults who are overweight is 30%. If added together, almost half the population of Malaysia are either overweight or obese.”
Diabetes rates have increased in tandem, with figures showing an increase from 11.6% of the population affected in 1996 to 17.5% in 2015. It was also found that 47.7% of adults had high cholesterol.
However, hypertension saw a decrease from 32.7% in 2006 to 30.3% in 2015.
“If there is excessive calorie intake, or the calories are not utilised through physical activity, obesity will occur, Therefore, awareness for calorie intake is very important for society to be more careful with their dietary habits.”
In 2014, a study published by British medical journal The Lancet said Malaysia was rated the highest in Asia for obesity South Korea, Pakistan and China.
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Philippines calls farmers to action in wake of low wages and replanting
The chair of the Philippines senate committee on agriculture and food has called on smallholders to develop production in the wake of a worrying FAO report on the country’s food security.
Speaking at events in Ilocos Norte and Sur, Senator Cynthia Villar said that the Philippines’ food supply will depend on small farms.
“Our food security in the future will depend on the small farms that we have because if we do not maintain these farms, we might have insufficient food by the year 2050, based on a study released by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations,” Villar said.
“I encourage all Ilocano farmers and fishermen to stay and develop your family farms while the national government looks at several initiatives to raise your income from farming.”
Low wages from agriculture of just 4,000 pesos (US$84) per month have been turning farmers away from farming. Villar said they needed to be given better financial literacy on how to operate a small farm as a business and adopt environment-friendly farming technologies.
Meanwhile, almost 19,000 rice farmers in Central Luzon whose livelihoods were severely affected by two successive typhoons at the end of 2015 have been receiving support to re-plant their damaged farms from the FAO and the Department of Agriculture.
“The FAO is augmenting the farm inputs that the Government is providing in affected areas to help ensure that all, if not most of the affected farmers receive much needed assistance at the soonest possible time,” said FAO Philippines representative José Luis Fernández.
Earlier in December, FAO mobilised its response with financial support from the UN’s Central Emergency Response fund.
“The assistance is time-critical as farmers need to be able to plant rice while there is enough water or they have to wait for the next cropping cycle in May,” added Fernández. “This means that they will go for months without sufficient income.”
The organisation has been working closely with DA field units to distribute certified rice seeds and fertiliser to the provinces that were hit hardest by Typhoon Koppu in mid-October, and then affected by flooding caused by Typhoon Melor in December.
“If we were not given these, we would have lost hope. We only borrowed the money that we used in the last cropping season. As it is, we are already deep in debt. Imagine if we had to borrow again,” said Ruben Abella, chairman of the Burgos Upland Farmers Association in Tarlac province.
“[If we can harvest in March], some of the earnings we will use to pay our debts, some to re-invest in our livelihood, the rest of the proceeds and part of our harvest is to support our family.”
Japan could help Malaysian halal hub ambitions
Japanese investment could help Malaysia become a global halal hub, the southeast Asian nation’s trade minister told a supply chain forum in Kuala Lumpur.
Japan could provide technological support to achieve this goal, said Ong Ka Chuan, while the formation of the Asean Economic Community and signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement would further establish Malaysia as a gateway to a wider global market.
Malaysia’s third-biggest trading partner after China and Singapore, Japan was involved in business worth 174.3bn ringgit (US$42bn) in 2014, accounting for 9.5% of Malaysia’s total global trade.
“Japanese investors continue to show interest in investing in Malaysia,” said Ong. “For the first nine months of 2015, we approved 52 manufacturing projects from Japan worth more than 2.9bn ringgit.”
Malaysia-Japan Economic Association president Azman Hashim urged companies from both nations to explore possible business ventures in the halal industry. Malaysia’s annual halal export value currently amounts to 35.4bn ringgit, which represents 5.1% of the country's total exports.
“We are a recognised Muslim country and our halal certification and partnerships will help us produce quality halal products for the global market,” he said.
Indonesia BPOM to launch app to check food’s provenance
Indonesian food authorities are preparing to launch an Android app that aims to help consumers assess the safety of packaged foods as they shop.
The app is currently being tested by the Food and Drug Control Agency (BPOM) said the head of its food and drug information centre, Rita Endang.
“The app is created so people will be more aware of the products they consume,” she said.
Once it is launched, consumers will be able to enter a product’s name or registration number into the app to find out if it has been licensed by food authorities. If it is not listed in the app’s database, they can file complaints using Twitter, Facebook or a freephone number.