CAP: Don’t sacrifice health and lives of the people at the altar of company profits

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We refer to the recent news report that the Penang authorities have rejected CAP’s proposal to restrict the hours of operation for 24-hour restaurants and eateries. Penang State government executive councillor Jason M.L. H’ng stated CAP’s proposal will “not only disrupt worker livelihoods but also lead to a domino effect on the economy”. He didn’t explain how.

It is strange that the Unity Government in Penang contradicts the position taken by the Federal UG Minister of Health to study the proposal and decide after consulting all stakeholders. That is the sensible thing to do.

The health and lives of our workers and people should not be sacrificed at the altar of H’ng’s claim of ‘economic benefits’. Studies have shown the link between late-night eating and obesity which is a national health problem.  A new study by Harvard Medical School found that when we eat significantly impacts our energy expenditure, appetite, and molecular pathways in adipose tissue.

The study found that eating four hours later makes a significant difference for our hunger levels, the way we burn calories after we eat, and the way we store fat in our bodies. The report stated that previous research on the issue had shown that late eating is associated with increased obesity risk, increased body fat, and impaired weight loss success.

Recently our Deputy Health Minister revealed that there are nearly five million Malaysians at risk of contracting pre-diabetic or diabetic conditions. Pre-diabetes has become a growing public health concern due to its potential to progress to diabetes.

A study published by the British health agency Public Health England states that being overweight or obese is the main modifiable risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

On its health impact, the report states that people with diabetes are at a greater risk of a range of chronic health conditions including cardiovascular disease, blindness, amputation, kidney disease and depression than people without diabetes.

The report further states that diabetes leads to a two-fold excess risk for cardiovascular disease, and diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of preventable sight loss among people of working age in England and Wales. Diabetes is a major cause of premature mortality with around 23,300 additional deaths in 2010-11 in England attributed to the disease.

On the economic impact, the report states that it is estimated in 2010-11 the cost of direct patient care (such as treatment, intervention and complications) for those living with type 2 diabetes in the UK was £8.8 billion and the indirect costs (such productivity loss due to increased death and illness and the need for informal care) were approximately £13 billion.

The annual direct healthcare costs from diabetes in Malaysia is about RM4.4 billion, 227 per cent higher than cancer (RM1.3 billion) and 11 per cent higher than cardiovascular disease (RM3.9 billion). The huge sum of RM 9.65 billion was spent annually to deal with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the country. These figures do not include the cost of productivity loss due to illness and death from NCDs.

The cost of treating diabetic patients and workers ‘productivity loss, due to, among other factors, late-night eating, far outweighs H’ng’s claim of economic loss.   The Penang authorities should wait for the outcome of the health minister’s consultation and not rush to defend 24-hour restaurants and eateries.



Mohideen Abdul Kader
Consumers Association of Penang

Letter to the Editor, 9 May 2024