- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2007

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian authorities may ban fast-food advertisements on children’s television shows to help curb obesity and diet-linked diseases, the health minister said today.

“The move can be regarded as an educational effort to raise the public’s awareness about the importance of eating nutritious food instead of relying on fast food,” Health Minister Chua Soi Lek told a news conference after holding talks with representatives of the fast food and advertising industries.

The proposed ban likely would exclude newspapers, magazines and theaters in this Southeast Asian country, as well as television shows whose viewers are mostly older than 12, said Mr. Chua, clarifying recent reports that the ministry wanted a total ban on fast food advertisements.

Cabinet ministers soon plan to discuss the suggestion and other new regulations, such as forcing fast-food firms to clearly label their products with calorie-content charts, Mr. Chua said.

“The health of 26 million people in Malaysia will override any losses” that fast-food businesses might face, Mr. Chua said following the talks, which comprised executives from McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut and other companies.

Officials have said that nearly 40 percent of Malaysia’s population is obese, up from 20 percent a decade ago. Many people also suffer from problems such as hypertension and diabetes.

Azmir Jaafar, managing director of McDonald’s Malaysia, said fast-food officials plan to hold more meetings with the government to help fine-tune the proposals over the next several weeks, and he stressed that the sector is unlikely to suffer a severe financial impact as long as a total advertising ban is not enforced.

“We’re prepared to work together in engagement and dialogue” with the government, Mr. Azmir told reporters.

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