A voluntary system encouraging manufacturers to cut down on salt and sugar levels in pre-packaged food will be rolled out this year as the first step to help Hongkongers eat better, according to the chairman of a government-appointed working group. Bernard Chan, chairman of the committee on reduction of salt and sugar in food, said he expected the group to submit a proposal in the second quarter of the year. READ MORE: Hong Kong sets target to reduce sugar and salt content in food “We believe labelling food with low salt and sugar levels is the easy target we can achieve in the short term,” Chan said after the committee held its third meeting yesterday. “It will help customers to make a healthier choice, and pressure manufacturers to be more health-conscious.” He hoped the label would be simple, such as a “green light”, to recognise food with “low salt and sugar” so that it would be easy for the general public to make a choice. In the long term, the group will make suggestions on salt and sugar levels in food products, but Chan admitted such a move would be more complicated and controversial. The committee, however, would not advise the government to legislate for a mandatory standard or labelling, and all suggestions would be voluntary, Chan said. READ MORE: Are your drinks too sweet? 1 in 3 beverages served in Hong Kong restaurants high in sugar, study finds “I believe there will be enough incentive for the food industry to comply voluntarily if customers are conscious of salt and sugar levels in packaged food,” Chan said. He added more education was needed in schools and for the general public on how to maintain a healthy diet. The target of the panel is to help Hongkongers achieve World Health Organisation standards for salt and sugar consumption levels in 10 years’ time. The WHO wants to limit salt intake to less than five grams per day and free sugar intake to less than 10 per cent of total energy intake. A high level of salt consumption increases the risk of developing hypertension, heart diseases and strokes in adults, and sugar consumption can lead to weight-related problems, the organisation says.