Efforts to Reduce Sugar Intake: The Case of Korea

Perspectives in Public Health, May 2017 | Go to article overview

Efforts to Reduce Sugar Intake: The Case of Korea


Many countries in the world have joined the 'war on sugar'. The United Kingdom and Canada have introduced public health policies to reduce sugar intake, and several countries now impose a sugar tax. In this article, Dr Hye-jin Sun of Kyungsung University, South Korea, outlines new policies announced in April 2016 by the South Korean government to reduce sugar intake.

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South Korea has a much lower rate of obesity and sugar intake than most Western nations, and the average daily total sugar intake of Koreans is not yet as much of a concern as it is in those countries.[1] However, Koreans' consumption of processed foods is steadily increasing, especially among children and adolescents. These foods have a higher sugar content than that of simple foods. The necessity of preventive management to keep sugar intake at an appropriate level has therefore come to the fore.[2]

The results of the 2007-2013 National Health and Nutrition Survey prompted the Government to announce the first comprehensive sugar intake reduction plan (2016-2020), aiming to reduce sugar intake through processed foods to below 10% of the total energy intake per day.[3] To achieve this, the plan promotes improvement of eating habits and perception of sugar intake so that individuals have an adequate sugar intake. This requires the formation of an environment in which foods with reduced sugar content can be selected and the establishment of a basis for the promotion of reduced sugar intake.[4]

In 2016, the first year of the 5-year plan, the object was to lay a foundation for continuous promotion of the reduction in sugar intake. Efforts were therefore made to disseminate knowledge of the necessity of sugar intake reduction to the public and to form a relevant social atmosphere. The Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) delivered its message through campaigns linked to various on-line and off-line media such as TV, radio, Social Networking Service, and government department events. Targeting children and adolescents first, the KFDA developed study materials and guidelines suitable for each age group to reduce sugar intake and enable good dietary practices. The educational material is distributed to children's feeding management support centres and schools.[5]

The KFDA also enables people to manage their own sugar intake, offering Calorie Coordinator , a simple smartphone application to identify the nutrient and calorie contents of different foods.[6] Collaborating with the KFDA and the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Livestock, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has enacted and published 'Guidelines for the Common National Diet '.[7] This initiative stems from the recognition that basic rules for desirable eating habits are necessary because chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity are closely related to misguided dietary lifestyles. The Korean Dietetic Association produced a poster that visualises nine dietary rules, so that the public can learn and apply the rules in a more interesting and easily understood way. The poster is very accessible, being distributed throughout the country to food service and public health centres that operate community nutrition management and education programs.[8]

In addition, the Government is pursuing a policy to create a consumption environment in which citizens can choose products with reduced sugar contents. …

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