Supporting public health objectives to reduce chronic disease related to overweight and obesity is one of the priorities for the Food Regulation System.
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.
At the most recent meeting on 29 June 2018, the Forum approved for public consultation a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement: Labelling of sugars on packaged foods and drinks paper for a ten-week period from July to September 2018.
The consultation paper was released on 11 July 2018, closing 19 September 2018, and is available on the Food Regulation website. Submission on the Policy Options paper can be lodged through the online portal.
The consultation paper identifies six options (in addition to the status quo) to achieve the desired outcome: Food labels provide adequate contextual information about sugars to enable consumers to make informed choices in support of the dietary guidelines. The proposed options are:
- 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. Stakeholder submissions to this consultation will be used by the Food Regulation Standing Committee to identify a preferred policy option to recommend to the Forum regarding potential changes to food and drink labels in relation to sugars. For future updates on the sugar labelling work please refer to the Food Regulation website