Ban on high-su­gar pack­aged drinks?

The New Paper - - NEWS - SALMA KHA­LIK, SE­NIOR HEALTH COR­RE­SPON­DENT

To fight obe­sity and di­a­betes, MOH and HPB also propos­ing three other mea­sures, in­clud­ing a su­gar tax

Sin­ga­pore may well be­come the first coun­try in the world to ban the sale of pack­aged drinks with high su­gar con­tent.

This is one of the moves the Min­istry of Health (MOH) is con­tem­plat­ing in its ef­forts to cut the high su­gar in­take among peo­ple here – a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to obe­sity and di­a­betes.

MOH and the Health Pro­mo­tion Board are seek­ing feed­back on four pro­posed mea­sures to cut su­gar in­take from drinks, which in­clude dry three-in-one mixes, cor­dials, yo­gurt drinks, fruit juices and soda drinks.

Such drinks ac­count for more than half the 12 tea­spoons of su­gar that peo­ple here take each day on av­er­age.

Many pack­aged sweet­ened bev­er­ages are loaded with su­gar, with one in four con­tain­ing 5.5 tea­spoons of su­gar or more.

The four pro­pos­als that MOH is seek­ing views on are:

A to­tal ban on pre-packed high-su­gar drinks;

Sin­gle or tiered taxes on high-su­gar drinks; Manda­tory front-of-pack la­belling on su­gar/nu­tri­tion con­tent; and

A ban on ad­ver­tise­ments for high-su­gar drinks on all plat­forms, in­clud­ing so­cial me­dia and buses.

Sin­ga­pore al­ready does not al­low the sale of medium-to­high-su­gar drinks in schools and on gov­ern­ment premises.

Many com­pa­nies also re­frain from ad­ver­tis­ing high-su­gar drinks to chil­dren, for ex­am­ple, dur­ing the hours when chil­dren are more likely to be watch­ing tele­vi­sion.

There is also the Health­ier Choice Sym­bol to iden­tify health­ier drinks. But this is vol­un­tary. The pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion aims to gauge peo­ple’s re­ac­tions on push­ing these bound­aries fur­ther.

MOH said that ev­ery 250ml of su­gar-sweet­ened bev­er­age daily raises a per­son’s risk of get­ting di­a­betes by 18 per cent to 26 per cent.

This was from var­i­ous stud­ies, so the amount of su­gar in the drink was not in­di­cated.

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) en­cour­ages peo­ple to take as lit­tle su­gar as pos­si­ble be­cause “nu­tri­tion­ally, peo­ple do not need any su­gar in their diet”.

It said that re­duc­ing su­gar in­take to 25g a day would pro­vide health ben­e­fits. This is five tea­spoons as mea­sured in Sin­ga­pore, but six tea­spoons ac­cord­ing to the WHO.

Experts agreed a to­tal ban on high-su­gar drinks would be the most ef­fec­tive but would also be the least po­lit­i­cally palat­able mea­sure.

Pro­fes­sor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Pub­lic Health, said that the four mea­sures are not mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive and, to­gether, are “very much in the right di­rec­tion”.

He added: “Any re­duc­tion in su­gar in­take will di­rectly trans­late to health ben­e­fits.”

The pub­lic can give feed­back at www.reach.gov.sg/sug­ary­drinks or send e-mails to sug­ary_­[email protected] from now un­til Jan 25.

[email protected]

TNP FILE PHOTO

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