Koreans are cooking… what about us?

February 6, 2007

The Koreans are cooking at home a lot more these days.

According to news reports, there has been a spike in sales of home cooking related products on Internet shopping malls. One shopping mall reported selling more than 5,000 products in one month, including mini-pans for making pancakes and chocolate for children.

Sales of barbecue pots used to cook corn or rice cake also increased three-fold from the previous month, while purchases of ingredients and utensils for do-it-yourself cooing reached approximately 40,000 units during a month-long stretch.

The reason for all this? Trans fats!

The Korean Food and Drug Administration legislated trans fat labelling in September 2006 and the new labelling requirements will take effect on 1 December 2007.

Since the labelling legislation was passed in September, there have been “one report after another” in the Korean press about the harm of trans fats. Apparently, what really heightened awareness was a recent television documentary on the subject.

A shopping mall official said that ever since a TV program discussed the risks of trans fat, daily sales of home cooking products have “exploded by more than three to four times”.

Korean mothers are especially concerned over a recent survey by the Korea Food and Drug Administration which shows that Korean children and teenagers eat two to three times more trans fat than adults.

Korean trans fat consumption is far lower than that of Americans or Canadians, and below the World Health Organization’s recommendation that trans fats make up no more than 1 percent of total calories — which works out to about 2 grams of trans fats per day.

Adult Koreans consume an average of only 0.18 grans trans fats daily. Children aged 5 to 12 consume about 0.36 grams, while teenagers aged 13 to 19 consume about 0.48 grams.

Despite such low levels, the Koreans take the issue of trans fats very seriously and Korea is the first Asian country to legislate trans fat labelling.

One news report commented: In the struggle to reduce trans fat, the food industry should reflect on its past negligence, but the public must also have the willpower to avoid foods high in trans fat.

Another report quoted Cho Hong-keun from Yonsei University’s division of cardiology saying, “Trans fats reduce your metabolism very gradually and paralyze your cell functions, prompting aging without you knowing it”.

The report added: Trans fats work just like snow, starting out quietly, but suddenly turning into a blizzard.


Meanwhile, has there been any renewed interest in home cooking here in Singapore? Perhaps we need a television documenntary to spark it off, but I doubt if it will ever happen. We seem too addicted to hawker and restaurant food.

I am slightly optimistic, though. I recall that in March 2005, when forum page regular Dr Lim Boon Hee first wrote a letter asking if the authorities would consider trans fat labelling, no one else followed up on the subject.

Today, we get one forum letter after another. In addition, I get fair amount of emails through this blog and my website. In fact, I just got invited by a school to give an assembly talk about trans fats. Will tell you more about that if and when it finally happens.
There is hope yet. Maybe one day, Singaporeans too will start to cook at home a lot more. Just maybe…

Hopefully, it will not be, as the Chinese say, tang koo koo “wait long long time”!

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