Choices International operates in 8 East Asian countries: Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. In East Asia, our organization is represented by a regional secretariat.
In East Asia, Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have implemented the positive Front-of-Pack (FOP) labelling. We have helped these countries with developing their national criteria based on our international Choices criteria. As we are helping Vietnam with the development of their national criteria, we are starting discussions with the Philippines, who are planning to launch the traffic-light labelling system, which is, in our opinion, less effective.
We are currently working in the region on creating more coherence in the national criteria, as this helps with the adoption of these criteria by the food industry. We are also working with food manufacturers and retailers on how they can use the Choices criteria for their business strategies, for example, in reformulation and positioning of their brands, and as part of their corporate sustainability strategies.
The Secretariat provides guidance and training in the development of national criteria and how these criteria can be used in national nutrition policies such as foods offered in school canteens, marketing and health claims regulations, and fiscal promotion (demotion) of (un)healthy foods. To the industry, we provide training and guidance on the use of the criteria in the positioning, promotion and reformulation of processed foods and as a foundation of the corporate nutrition and sustainability policy.
The East Asia Secretariat supports the countries with the positive logo programs, in East Asia by creating a bridge between policy makers, industry and Choices, through the use of the Choices Criteria. The Secretariat also provides its members an access to scientific dialogues, updates, evidence-based practice in other regions as reference; and training the relevant bodies in formulating their national criteria based on scientific evidence. The Secretariat also initiated the dialogue for coherence in criteria across the countries for mutual recognition in the region.
Snigdha is the Senior Advisor to the Choices regional secretariat for East-Asia, covering China and the ASEAN region. She will collaborate closely with the Choices regional secretary for East-Asia and East-Asia Industry Support Group. Snigdha has a Masters and an MPhil in Food Science and Nutrition. She has been awarded a PhD in Nutrition from India. She has a vast experience in academia spanning more than 25 years.
Her research interests are in Public Health Nutrition inclusive of Maternal and Child Health and Geriatric Nutrition. She is engaged in active research and supervised many undergraduate and postgraduate students. She has worked with the food industry to improve the health of the community. She is committed to a strong foundation for a transformational change in the health of the community through professional and personal rapport. She is currently an Associate Professor, in Nutrition and Dietetics, International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Hector, a Chemist by training from the University of the Philippines, is appointed as the Philippine Country Representative of Choices International. Hector's earlier work was on various research settings and as a chief chemist of the Food Development Center under the Department of Agriculture.
In 1992, he was trained on Food Fortification in Europe and the United States while developing the 1st Philippine Food Fortification Plan. In 1994, he started working as a full-time consultant working with various development partners such as UNICEF, USAID and many others. In 2010, the Philippine Association of Nutrition, Inc. recognized his achievement in food fortification as a Fellow on Community Nutrition due to significant decreases in vitamin A deficiency and anaemia in the Philippines. His experience in bridging various stakeholders in implementing the food fortification program enables him to continue to establish a similar partnership towards the Choices agenda for the Philippines.
Since 2012, Choices International Foundation has been organising the annual Round-Table meetings with countries that have positive logo programs. They were introduced in respective countries of East Asia, to empower consumers in making informed food choices, through the identification of the logo. We are currently working in the region on creating more coherence in the national criteria, as this helps with the adoption of these criteria by the food industry.
The organisations that drive the program locally in their respective countries, are listed below:
CNS launched the Healthier Choice logo program in November 2017, and are in the midst of implementing the programme
BPOM introduced the “Pilihan Lebih Sehat” logo (positive ‘tick’ sign) in September 2019, for their beverages and instant noodles / pasta product groups
HPB established the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) in 2001. Besides pre-packaged foods at the supermarket, the HCS has also been extended to dining out options
MOPH Thailand introduced the Healthier Choice nutritional logo in August 2016. The logo is owned by the Thai Food & Drug Administration, which assigned the Nutrition Promotion Foundation of the Mahidol University, to manage the symbol’s use.
NIN is currently supporting the development of a Choices-based FOP nutritional labelling programme
Since August 2020, Choices has engaged a country representative for the Philippines, to reduce non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and the double burden of malnutrition (DBM). Since then, a stakeholder and landscape analysis of the past and present initiatives of the Philippines was drawn. There were also engagements with key stakeholders like the Department of Science and Technology - Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI), the lead government research institution for nutrition research and policy, the National Nutrition Council (NNC), the coordinating and policy agency for Nutrition, the Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Association for Nutrition, Inc., (PAN) and the Philippine Society of Nutritionists Dietitian (PSND), multi-sectoral organizations of nutrition advocates from government, academia and the private sector, University of the Philippines (Nutrition) (UP), and SUN Business Network (SBN). The objective was to create an appetite for criteria-based nutrition policies.
Following, the on-going nutrition profiling project of DOST-FNRI, there are plans to also form a national scientific committee to implement these country-specific criteria for food-based approaches leading to the development and implementation of a front of pack logo for healthy foods. On-going studies by Choices include a review of policies on positive nutrients in East Asia and review of double duty actions as part of the Philippine Plan of Actions for Nutrition 2017-2022.