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Nutrition labels required by end 2023 for freshly prepared drinks that are higher in sugar, fat content

03:12 Min
Food and beverage outlets will by end of 2023 be required to include nutrition labels on their menus indicating drinks that contain higher levels of sugar and saturated fat. Sherlyn Seah reports.

SINGAPORE: Food and beverage outlets will by end of 2023 be required to include nutrition labels on their menus indicating drinks that contain higher levels of sugar and saturated fat.

These include freshly brewed drinks from coffee shops, freshly squeezed juices and bubble tea.

"Our latest measures will require the outlets selling these drinks to label on their hard and softcopy menus beverages higher in sugar and saturated fat with the Nutri-Grade mark," said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Thursday (Aug 11).

Calling such drinks a “growing source of sugar in Singaporeans’ diets”, Mr Ong said the Health Ministry is working towards publishing these measures in the middle of next year and have them implemented by end-2023.

“Advertising prohibitions will also apply to these freshly prepared beverages with the highest level of sugar and saturated fat content,” said Mr Ong, who was speaking at the opening ceremony of the 19th International Society for Peritoneal Dialysis Congress.

He added that these measures aim “to help consumers make more informed, healthier choices, reduce the influence of advertising on consumer preferences and spur industry reformulation”.

“While we cannot avoid the sugar in juices and sugar cane drink, we can enjoy coffee, tea, Milo and bubble tea with less sugar content,” he said.

“I hope more Singaporeans will realise that less sugar will bring out the natural flavours of the drinks and we may well find them even more enjoyable ... More importantly, it keeps us healthy, and staves off a very scary disease in diabetes.”

In December, MOH announced that pre-packaged drinks such as soft drinks, juice and milk will be required to carry the new Nutri-Grade labels by the end of 2022.

The four-level grading system is based on the sugar and saturated fat content in beverages. It will be colour-coded – A (dark green), B (light green), C (orange) and D (red), with A being the category with the lowest sugar and fat thresholds.

Drinks that are graded C or D must have their labels on the front of the package, MOH said. If sold online, or from a vending machine or a buyer-facing automated beverage dispenser, the image of the Nutri-Grade mark must be displayed according to the regulations.

Advertisements are also prohibited for grade D drinks in most cases.

Mr Ong said on Thursday that the measures for pre-packaged drinks have “brought about a very positive response from the demand and supply sides of the industry” since they were announced.

For example, producers have “significantly reformulated their beverages” ahead of the effective date of the measures for pre-packaged drinks.

“Preliminary data shows that the median sugar level of pre-packed beverages has been reduced from 7.1 per cent in 2017 to 4.7 per cent in 2021,” he said.

Sales of pre-packaged drinks graded C or D have also fallen from 63 per cent in 2017 to 40 per cent in 2021. Sales of drinks with less than 5 per cent sugar content have increased from 37 per cent to 60 per cent over the same period.

“These shifts are as significant as those recorded in the UK, which has implemented a sugar tax, and much more stringent regulation of the market,” he said.

“It shows that, in our market, by providing the right information in the right way, our industry and consumers are sophisticated and health-conscious enough to respond positively, and that is encouraging.

"Encouraged by these developments, MOH and HPB (Health Promotion Board) will step up our efforts to reduce sugar intake from freshly prepared beverages."

Source: CNA/ga(mi)

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