Statement from Jane Martin, Obesity Policy Coalition Executive Manager, following the announcement of the Federal Government’s public consultation into added sugar labelling in Australia.
Added sugar can have major implications for a person’s health. So the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) believes it is critical for Australian consumers to be aware of the amount of added sugar in packaged foods, to allow them to make informed choices about the products they choose to buy.
At a minimum, a product’s ingredients list must have added sugar clearly spelled out. While the ingredients list currently names sugar included in the product, added sugars can have more than 40 different names which consumers might not be familiar with, such as maltodextrose and agave nectar, making it difficult to identify what is sugar.
The amount of added sugar also needs to be separated out from naturally occurring sugars in the nutrition information panel. This would enable people to clearly differentiate added sugar, which is a concern to health, from naturally occurring sugars like lactose, which is not.
Displaying the number of teaspoons of added sugar on a product’s label would help people easily visualise how much they are consuming and help them cut back. For optimal health, the World Health Organization's recommends no more than 5% of energy comes from added sugar a day: for most adults this is around 6 teaspoons.
On average Australian adults consume around 15 teaspoons of added sugar per day, with teenage boys averaging 23 teaspoons a day – and the biggest source of added sugar in the diet is sugary drinks.
To really help people be aware of the health implications of high-sugar products, the Obesity Policy Coalition would like to see health advisory labels considered - particularly for sugary drinks. High consumption of added sugar can easily lead to weight gain, and obesity is a risk factor for 13 different cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.”