Teaspoons labelling leads in calls to control demon sugar
EFFORTS to reduce the dietary demon sugar are starting to resemble those marshalled against nicotine and cigarettes as the federal government calls for input on labelling options for packaged food and drinks, including possibly a teaspoons rating.
A 600ml bottle of Coca-Cola for example could be forced to display 16 teaspoons of sugar on its label, arguably like the introduction of nicotine level labelling on cigarette packets that led eventually to plain labels with gruesome health images.
The government consultation, open until September 19, wants labels provide adequate contextual information about sugars to enable consumers to make informed choices in support of the dietary guidelines.
Six policy options, in addition to the status quo, are proposed to achieve the desired outcome.
- Status Quo
- Education, how to read and interpret sugar labelling
- Changes to the statement of ingredients
- Added sugars quantified in the nutrition information panel
- Advisory labels for foods high in added sugars
- Pictorial approaches to convey the amount or types of sugars in a serving of food
- Digital linking to off-label web-based information about added sugars content
Consumer watchdog CHOICE is leading calls for visual labelling of teaspoons of sugar.
CHOICE spokeswoman Katinka Day says some teenagers are consuming 38 teaspoons of added sugar per day, equivalent to the sugar in four cans of Coke. Leading national and international health advice clearly states that people should reduce their intake of added sugars. But current labels in Australia make it nearly impossible to identify how much sugar is added to a product by the manufacturer, she says.
“At the moment you have to be a food scientist to identify added sugars in processed foods.
“People in Australia have no clear way of knowing how much sugar has been added to a food,” says Ms Day.
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CHOICE says consumer research shows that Australians want to see added sugar labelling in the nutritional information panel, ingredients list and visually represented as teaspoons of sugar.
Showing teaspoons of sugar is especially important for products that are very high in sugar and low in any beneficial nutrients such as sugar-sweetened beverages, it says.
Alexandra Jones, a public health lawyer at the George Institute for Global Health, said people will be surprised by how much added sugar is in a healthy food like yoghurt or breakfast cereals.
“Added sugars are empty calories and a major contributing factor to the obesity epidemic, rising rates of type 2 diabetes and tooth decay,” she told Fairfax.
The World Health Organisation said no more than 10 per cent of total daily energy intake should come from added sugars, and the Australian Dietary Guidelines urges everyone to limit their intake of food and drinks with added sugar.
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