Trans Fat in Zaobao

February 25, 2007

Yours truly is featured in the Chinese newspaper, Lianhe Zaobao, today talking about trans fats.

Unfortunately, I cannot read Chinese (because I am old enough to have been allowed to opt for studying Malay as a second language) so I can’t tell you what the article says.

Perhaps one of you can be kind enough to provide a translation?


12.50 pm update

Just back from late breakfast / lunch at the Ang Mo Kio Ave 4 food centre, the one that sells youtiao fried in coconut oil… with my friend David who is able to read Chinese.

I asked David to help translate the Zaobao article and his first – and second – reaction was “Wah”. In fact, that was my first reaction too, when I bought the newspaper and saw that they had devoted an entire page to the subject of trans fats.

The first “Wah” from David was when he saw the headline of the article, which described me as “The voice of the opposition”. Ha ha, I don’t mind that headline at all, in fact, I rather like it. Maybe I will get an invitation to join the Workers’ Party 😉

The second “Wah” came when David read my Chinese name, which he says was “very powerful”. I always thought my Chinese name, Siew Sai, meant “pretty lion” but David says it is better translated as “elegant lion”.

Hmmm… not bad too.

OK the rough translation… First off, the highlight quote talks about the Chinese – and the people of Okinawa – eating lard for thousands of years and not having heart disease. And about the Europeans taking butter, Indians taking ghee, etc.

The main article talks about me setting up the STOP trans fat website and my message that saturated fats are not as harmful as commonly believed.

It went into some details about how many hits (actually should be visitors, not hits) I’ve been getting and there was some inaccuracy about STOP trans fat being my most popular website. It is not. I get more visitors from my personal website, www.richardseah.com and my art-photograph-gallery website, just that the STOP trans fat site is faring well in spite of it being barely two months old.

The article also mentioned about me growing up weakly and always falling ill. Apparently it said my health improved after I stopped taking trans fats, which is again not totally accurate. My health improved after I started taking more natural, whole foods.

David felt that the article ended on a negative note, by mentioning that I am not a doctor, nutritionist or other medically / nutritionally qualified person.

The reporter had asked how I hoped to convince people without any formal qualifications and I said that if people do not wish to believe what I say, good luck to them.

It is a sad reflection of our society that people attach so much importance to paper qualifications rather than the soundness and logic of arguments presented. I may not be well qualified in nutrition, but I read widely and quote people – like researchers Mary Enig and Walter Willet – who are eminently qualified.

Anyway, I did not mind the mention that I am not qualified. To one of my readers at least, this is something to be proud of. Shortly after I launched this blog, MK O – who had been reading my articles since I published The Good Life in 1989 – sent me an email saying:

You know what one of your achivements is Richard? It has been said that in Singapore one isn’t qualified for anything until a piece of paper says so. Well you have escaped that trap cos no one has discredited you for anything you say so far – disagreed yes. As far as I have know about you you are not trained in healthcare or medicine right? I guess you are putting your journalistic skill to best use.

So yes, I am proud of the fact that I can speak and write authoritatively about trans fat – and health – without a piece of paper qualification. And I thank MK O for this affirmation 🙂

And no, I don’t have any complaint about the Zaobao article despite the slight inaccuracies and the “negative” ending. In fact, I am very pleased for several reasons:

  • I was given fairly extensive coverage, with a picture and all taking up about 1/4 page.
  • The article about me was placed on top of another article quoting a (well-qualified) nutritionist from Raffles Hospital, saying the usual things about saturated fats also being harmful, and giving the usual advice to take soft margarine and canola oil. (Incidentally, my friend David had once switched to cooking with canola oil and he says it is f*** up, made his pots and pans overly greasy and hard to clean! And he wondered what it would do to the insides of his body.)

The rest of the page…

The lead article was about the Consumers’ Association of Singapore having conducted a study on trans fats back in 2004, but the results were not published because, at that time, the government was not paying much attention to the issue.

Case said it was now reviving the issue and trying to persuade food manufacturers to either declare their content of trans fats, or remove them.

According to David, the article is “neither here nor there… doesn’t say much, very diplomatic and politically correct… not like yours!”

Another article on the side praised NTUC Fairprice for initiating trans fat labelling for some of its products. Apparently 28 food manufacturers have supported the cause and have removed trans fats from their products.

Finally, there are some basic questions answered at the bottom of the page, like what are trans fats, what foods contain them, etc.

Disappointly, the part about what trans fats do to the body repeats the same single point mentioned in the Health Promotion Board website, that trans fats raise cholesterol levels. I had mentioned to the Zaobao reporter about about trans fat being associated with diabetes, infertility, low birth weight, cancer, allergies, Alzheimer’s disease and other health problems.

Perhaps she dared not report these since the Health Promotion Board does not say so? Oh well…

But with one entire page (without advertisements) devoted to the issue of trans fats, what more can one ask for?

My thanks and congratulations to Zaobao health reporter Chua Hwee Leng for a job generally well done.






  1. And you are welcomed, Mr Seah.
    It didn’t matter to me in 1989 that I didn’t know what your qualifications were. It still doesn’t matter now that we all know you have ‘no qualifications’. Soldier on!

    • LA County hired an Arizona firm to do the work? Are you sure? Doesn’t that seem completely wrong when California is hurting fiNlnciaaly?not that the work should have been done at all. But I didn’t think I could find any more imbecility in the county’s handling of this and there it is.

  2. Paper qualifications, in my opininion, account for very little if a person lacks curiosity and critical thinking, both of which you have in great amount!

    In this information age where new technological breakthroughs and new studies (and new marketing, and new propaganda, and new noise) are appearing all the time, a person who is going to be any good in his profession (whether he or she is a doctor, a journalist, a policy-maker, or just an everyday person) needs to acknowledge the wide sea of (often changing) information, and have an intellect that can separate the wheat from the chaff. The skill of discernment is hardly bestowed upon anyone solely by their profession. And it’s also within reach for anyone who wants to develop it.

    Anyway, kudos on your story in the Zaobao! Sorry to hear the article was “neither here nor there” but I’m not surprised.

    • I laughed when I saw that, if May wasn’t allowed in the debate, you weren’t going to watch it. That’s the kind of participation in government that we ne82e&#!2d0;If I don’t get my way, I’ll not bother, since it’s only interesting if I get a say”. You are a bastion of open-minded thinking

  3. Woops, I misread which article was neither here nor there… I just gathered the overall tone of the trans-fat page was that it didn’t want to fall on one side or the other!

  4. Congrats for the attention that Zao Bao brought to the cause. I think the paper does a better job educating the people than ST ever did. This is the third report that it did on trans fat. On the point that it did not mention links of trans fat intake to diabetes and other diseases, I think it was covered in its first report quite some time back in January 2007. Maybe it comes with not being the dominant two newspaper in Singapore.

    Happy CNY! May it be fruitful and filled with happiness 🙂

  5. Thank you, MKO, Singaporecityzen YCK for the continued support and affirmations.

    Seems like the three of you are my most regular readers and commentors. I am much encouraged to have some regulars.

    And the readership for this blog seems to be slowly and steadily increasing. Yesterday I had my 4th highest readership since starting out over a month ago.

    And Zaobao carried three trans fat articles since January? That’s not bad.

    If zaobao does more to educate the public than ST and TODAY, well, ST and TODAY do more than the Health Promotion Board!

  6. […] – The Alternative HPB Commentaries – plus in-depth information – about health issues « Trans Fat in Zaobao Malaysia to ban fast food ads – Boleh! February 28th, 2007 There has been much talk about […]

  7. No problem 🙂 I would like to add that ST has not done such a great job in balanced reporting either from what I distilled from the ZB report.

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