Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS)

What is Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS)?

In Singapore, the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) on packaged food products indicates that they have met the set criteria to be classified as a healthier choice. This helps consumers to make informed decisions on the healthier food options when they are shopping. In general, food products awarded the HCS are:

Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS)
  • lower in fat, saturated fat and trans fat
  • lower in sodium
  • lower in sugar 
  • higher in calcium 
  • higher in dietary fibre

To make nutrition labeling more comprehensive, enhanced versions of the HCS were introduced. Each focuses on a specific nutritional aspect of the product. The newer labels include 6 nutrient specific claims above the original logo. Each product will carry 1 of the 6 logos. Some products may carry 2 logos should they meet the nutritional guidelines. These 6 logos are:

 

 

Higher in Whole-Grains

Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS)

Eat All Foods In Moderation

Trans Fat Free

Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS)

Eat All Foods In Moderation

Lower in Saturated Fat

Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS)

Eat All Foods In Moderation

Higher in Calcium

Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS)

Eat All Foods In Moderation

Lower in Sodium

Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS)

Eat All Foods In Moderation

Lower in Sugar

Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS)

Eat All Foods In Moderation

Some cooking oils may carry 1 or 2 of the 6 logos:

 

Lower Saturated Fat

Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS)

Eat All Foods In Moderation

Products carrying this logo contain at least 25% less saturated fat compared to similar products.

 

Trans Fat Free

Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS)

Eat All Foods In Moderation

Products carrying this logo contain no or negligible amounts of trans fat i.e. less than 0.5g per 100g of the product.

Why some good cooking oils are not awarded HCS?

You may notice that some healthy cooking oils do not carry the HCS logo. This could be simply because the manufacturers or suppliers of the products did not apply for the HCS classification prior to marketing their products. This does not mean that these oils are not healthy or inferior to those with the HCS. Hence, you should not just rely on the HCS logo when grocery shopping, but also evaluate the contents specified in the nutrition labels or the ingredient list in making the right choice. 

According to expert, 

“Not all healthier products have the Healthier Choice label. For instance, FairPrice brand of frozen straight-cut french fries which contain 33mg of sodium per 100g, has the Healthier Choice label. But the Lamb Weston brand, which has only 30mg of sodium for the same portion of fries does not. This could be because new companies may not apply for the label or foreign firms do not see the benefit of doing so.”

“I always encourage my patients to read the nutrition information panel and the ingredients list. This is the best way to ensure that they are choosing a better product that meets their nutritional and lifestyle needs.”

(Extracted from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/moderation-is-key-healthier-choice-or-not)

Oils with HCS are Probably Not as Healthy as You Think

Experts warn that people should not take the HCS as an indication that a product is intrinsically healthy. A majority of consumers will use HCS as a robust guideline and only choose the cooking oils that carry the logo. Although these cooking oils contain lesser amount of saturated fat and/or contain no or negligible amounts of trans fat compared to similar products, HCS logo does not reflect their other fatty acid profiles, including amounts of monounsaturated (e.g. omega-9s) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3s and omega-6s) and the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s. A good oil should have high amounts of omega-3s which cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained from diet. Furthermore, the omega-6s to omega-3s ratio should not be too high (ideally less than 1). Hence, it is good to know how to select a good cooking oil, and screening through the nutrition information panel is indispensable. 

Even as the Health Promotion Board (HPB) looks to further tighten a scheme that labels some food products a “healthier choice”, experts say more can be done so that people do not mistakenly think all of these foods are outright healthy.”

“While there are people who are discerning enough to understand the meaning of the symbol, there are also people who are not.” 

HPB chief executive Zee Yoong Kang acknowledged that the average person may not easily grasp the distinction between “healthy” and “healthier” choice.

Some Healthier Choice items already carry a qualifying statement, such as “25 per cent lower sugar compared to regular soft drinks”. However, some people may not understand this and simply use the Healthier Choice symbol as a guide. 

(Extracted from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/healthier-choice-label-call-for-more-clarity)