A Youth’s Take – A weekly column by Zaidi Azmi
ON learning that Nestle’s Milo is said to be riddled with sugar, a great deal of Malaysians did the most reasonably-millennial thing to do –they fuss about it on social media.
Some even spoke about wanting to sue Nestle for falsely advertising Milo as a healthy chocolate malt beverage.
Why Milo’s sugar content became an eye-opening revelation to some is anybody’s guess.
It is as if none of its critics bothered to read the nutrition label pasted at the back of every Milo packaging.
The Milo tirade erupted on social media after Malaysia-born international speaker Vishen Lakhiani published a video exposing Nestle’s alleged malpractices in getting Malaysians hooked on the beverage.
He claimed that Nestle spent millions of ringgit to have nutritionists endorse Milo as a healthy beverage despite the fact that a tin of 1.5 kilogramme of Milo powder is made up more than half a kg of sugar.
Not suprisingly, those who shared the video claimed that Milo was the reason why Malaysia has become the fattest country in Southeast-Asia.
But is Nestle truly the sole perpetrator behind our transformation into Augustus Gloop from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?
Our sugar intake rate however seems to indicate that we are just as guilty, with or without Milo.
According to the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, Malaysians are the 8th largest sugar guzzlers in the world.
In the 1970s, each Malaysian on average consumed about 17 teaspoons of sugar a day. This figure went up to about 21 teaspoons in the 1980s and by the 1990s Malaysians were consuming an average of 24 teaspoons a day.
But now the figure has jumped to 26 teaspoons, which is equavalent to 109.2 grams! That is four times the recommended intake outlined by the World Health Organisation.
Therefore, its a no-brainer why a for-profit company such as Nestle sugar-coats its products to cater to the local taste buds.
In its rebuttal to Vishen, Nestle confirmed that the sugar content of Milo is as such because it wants to retain the taste that Malaysians have been enjoying for generations.
Regional product tweaking is a common practice, especially among food and beverage companies.
For example, do you know that Malaysian Milo is sweeter than that sold in Australia?
In fact, a regular serving of Australian Milo powder has 9.3grams of sugar which increases to 20.1g when it is mixed with a glass of milk.
A regular serving of Malaysian Milo powder on the other hand has 12.2g of sugar and unlike Australia’s, ours is served with piping hot water and a few tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk.
According to data from the Health Ministry and Malaysian Food Composition Database, such a concoction drastically increases the beverage’s sugar content to somewhere between 33g and 57.5g.
“It is because a tablespoon of condensed milk has 15g of sugar and Malaysians generally use more than a tablespoon to make a glass of Milo,” said Insaniah University College culinary lecturer Kauthar Muhammad.
The fact is that when it comes to sugar, Malaysians are generally mired in a complicated love-hate relationship.
While we hate it for its limbs-amputating and obesity-inducing effects, we also go gaga over its ability to make our sambal nasi lemak taste absolutely delicious.
So to assume a moral high-ground and accuse Nestle as the prime culprit that had fast-tracked us into becoming Fat Albert is perhaps a tad pretentious.