Supporting public health objectives to reduce chronic disease related to overweight and obesity is one of the priorities for the Food Regulation System. These priorities have been endorsed by all Food Ministers.
Work on labelling of sugars on packaged foods and drinks was originally initiated in response to Recommendation 12 in Labelling Logic: Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy (2011), which was that, where sugars, fats or vegetable oils are added as separate ingredients in food, the terms ‘added sugars’ and ‘added fats’ and/or ‘added vegetable oils’ be used in the ingredient list as the generic term, followed by a bracketed list (e.g. added sugars [fructose, glucose syrup, honey], added fats [palm oil, milk fat] or added vegetable oils [sunflower oil, palm oil]).
At the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (the Forum) meeting in November 2017, Ministers noted a program of work undertaken to investigate labelling approaches for providing information on sugars. The program of work included evidence-gathering activities by Food Standards Australia New Zealand on consumer understanding and behaviour, international approaches to sugars labelling and an update of the sugar policy context by the Australian Government Department of Health.
Noting the desire of Forum Ministers to take a whole-of-diet, holistic approach to food labelling, Forum Ministers considered that information about sugars provided on food labels does not provide adequate contextual information to enable consumers to make informed choices in support of dietary guidelines. Forum Ministers agreed to continue examining regulatory and non-regulatory options to address this issue.
In June 2018, the Forum approved a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement: Labelling of sugars on packaged foods and drinks paper for a ten-week public consultation which ran between 11 July to 21 September 2018.
The consultation paper identified six options (in addition to the status quo) to achieve food labels that provide adequate contextual information about sugars to enable consumers to make informed choices in support of the dietary guidelines. The labelling options proposed in the consultation were:
- Status quo;
- Education on how to read and interpret labelling information about sugars;
- Change the statement of ingredients to overtly identify sugars-based ingredients;
- Added sugars quantified in the nutrition information panel;
- Advisory labels for foods high in added sugars;
- Pictorial display of the amount of sugars and/or added sugars in a serving of food; and
- Digital linking to off-label web-based information about added sugars content.
These options are not necessarily mutually exclusive and more than one option could be adopted.
Over 160 submissions were received and are currently being analysed. Feedback from the submissions for the public consultation, together with relevant research and evidence, will be used to identify a preferred policy option/s in the preparation of a Decision Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) which is expected to be provided to the Forum in mid-2019 for consideration.
For future updates on the sugar labelling work please refer to the Food Regulation website