More healthy hawker food options in Singapore by 2019, says HPB

Health Promotion Board (HPB) aims to have 40 per cent of the 13,000 hawker centre and coffee shop food stalls offer at least one healthy food option, according to a report by Todayonline on July 10, 2017. This number is double the current proportion.

Consumers can identify stalls with healthier food options through the “lower-calorie options” labels at stalls. These 65 types of dishes are 500 calories and below, as compared with the average 700 to 800 calories.

The Healthier Dining Programme was extended to hawker centres and coffee shops in December 2016. Since then, more than 2,700 stalls across 60 hawker centres and 450 coffee shops have come on board.

“The main objective is to ensure that … for consumers who wish to eat healthily, they have healthier options,” Senior Minister of State (Health) Chee Hong Tat told reporters as he was touring the Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre, which was one of the participating outlets. 

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However, this is not without challenges. For one, it would be a "very high risk for many hawkers to change the recipes of dishes they have developed over many decades," said HPB chief executive officer Zee Yoong Kang. He also added that even if the hawkers were willing to change, the customers might not be willing to accept the shift. 

Instead of targeting individual hawker stalls, HPB will start off by "working with the large chains so that we can scale up fast," Zee told reporters. This would allow them to reach many touch points, and more restaurants and food courts, Todayonline said in the report. 

Besides that HPB is also working with the companies providing the ingredients, so that the food quality can be controlled, said Zee. The board is now collaborating with food manufacturers to develop healthier staple ingredients, such as wholegrain rice, wholegrain noodles and healthier cooking oil.