Singapore has become the the first country in the world to ban advertisements of packaged drinks with very high sugar content. Not just that. Such drinks will now have to carry a label announcing that the drink is unhealthy.
While the label is compulsory for drinks found to be unhealthy, drinks with less sugar can also carry the label. The label will indicate if the drink is healthy, neutral or unhealthy.
“Our rapidly ageing population and rising prevalence of chronic diseases will lead us to an unsustainable, costly system with poorer health outcomes if we do not intervene,” said Edwin Tong, Senior Minister of State for Health, in a press conference on Thursday. Singapore has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world. 13.7 per cent of Singaporean adults suffer from diabetes.
In December last year, the Health Ministry and the Health Promotion Board started eight weeks of public consultation on how to reduce sugar intake here, reported The Strait Times.
It had proposed four possible measures: mandatory front-of-pack label, regulation on advertising, a sugar tax, and ban of high-sugar sweetened beverages.
The use of a compulsory label received the highest support, with 84 per cent of the more than 4,000 respondents in favour of it. Less than half favoured a ban on such drinks, saying “it was too extreme and deprived consumers of their ability to choose”.
The government says it has not ruled out the other two measures in future — a sugar tax and a complete ban on sugar-sweetened beverages.
In his 2017 National Day address, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had identified diabetes as one of the most pressing issues facing the nation, urging an “all out” fight against the disease.
“Each one of us must take responsibility for our own health. And this must start from [when we are] young,” Lee said. “That is the way to reduce the risk of diabetes, stay healthy and live well.”
The Coca-Cola Company welcomed the decision and said it would reduce sugar levels in its drinks sold in Singapore.
“We will continue to rethink many of our recipes in Singapore to reduce sugar, because while sugar in moderation is fine. We agree that too much of it is not good for anyone,” Ahmed Yehia, country manager for Coca-Cola Singapore and Malaysia told Reuters. “We foresee minimal impact on our portfolio from this announcement.”