Malaysia has banned fast-food companies from sponsoring or advertising on children's television programmes to curb the increasing incidence of health problems caused by bad eating habits, news reports said Saturday.
Health Minister Chua Soi Lek said the cabinet had agreed all fast-food chains be required to detail the cholesterol, fat and sugar content of their products, the Star daily reported.
Chua said the decision was made after considering that television advertisements had a greater influence than other media on children aged 12 and below.
He said the government realised the ban would mean the loss of millions of ringgit in advertising revenue for television stations and affect multinational fast-food companies but the health of its citizens came first.
Chua, who is also a medical doctor said the ban and label requirements were in line with the government's efforts to reduce health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension which mostly stem from obesity.
"Twenty years ago only six percent of adults in Malaysia suffered from diabetes. Now it's nine percent and at this rate we can expect 12-13 percent by 2020," he said.
Chua has said 37 percent of Malaysia's almost 27 million people are obese, a rise from only 20 percent a decade ago.
He did not say when the ban would take effect but said reasonable time would be given for companies to honour existing advertising contracts.
Malaysia has a wide range of fast-food chains including McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King, which are a popular choice for a quick lunch and often serve as venues for children's parties and weekend family dinners.
Many weekend children's programmes on terrestrial television networks are sponsored by fast-food giants.