SINGAPORE, July 14 (Xinhua) -- Singapore's Health Promotion Board is spending millions of dollars a year in subsidies to promote the use of healthier cooking oil, local daily Straits Times reported on Monday.
Starting this month, the board will absorb the difference in cost between palm oil, which is generally used by food outlets, and a healthier mix of palm and canola oil that costs 20 percent to 30 percent more. The aim is to get 20 percent of food outlets to switch from palm oil to the canola mix by 2020.
It will be subsidizing wholesale oil suppliers to get them to sell the healthier mix to restaurants, hawker stalls and other food outlets at the same price as palm oil.
Palm oil is the cheapest cooking oil and costs around 6 to 8 Singapore dollars (4.8 to 6.4 U.S. dollars) for a two-liter bottle in retail shops. But it has 50 percent saturated fat, which is believed to clog up the arteries and increase the risks of heart attacks and stroke. The canola and palm oil mix reduces the fat saturation to 38 percent.
One of the oil suppliers involved in the scheme said that some food outlets will go for the healthier oil if it does not cost them more. However, still some others may resist, fearing it could affect the standard or taste of their food.
Experts are divided, too, on how effective the scheme will be, the Straits Times said. Some of the cardiologists said that even with the saturation at 38 percent, deep-fried foods are still bad for health, though a nutrition scientist said there will be benefits on a national level.
"A slight decrease in the percentage of saturated fats in the cooking oil would probably not have a substantial effect on the overall healthiness of the dish. More relevant would be the food that is being cooked in the oil, as well as the amount of salt and sugar used," said Chin Chee Tang, a doctor at the National Heart Center.
"It will not be the panacea for all ailments, but it is a move in the right direction and the Health Promotion Board should be lauded for its initiative," said Jeyakumar Henry, director of the Clinical Nutrition Research Center, which was set up by the National University Health System and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research.