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