Experts sweet on labelling crackdown on sugar claims

A shake-up on how packaged foods and beverages are labelled will mean products high in sugars can no longer carry ‘no added sugar’ claims, although consumers won’t see the changes for some time.

The new standards agreed to on Friday by Australian and New Zealand food ministers apply to solid food with 10 per cent or more sugar and liquids that contain 7.5 per cent or more sugar.

The changes will mean that high-sugar foods, including some baby and toddler foods and fruit juices, will not be able to carry “no added sugar” claims on their packaging.

The food standards authority said the updated code would “minimise the risk of consumers being misled about the overall healthiness of products naturally high in sugar”.

“It’s about minimising confusion about the products that are best for health,” Food for Health Alliance’s Jane Martin told AAP.

The public health advocate described the changes as a win for consumers.

“It’s also about making sure that people are getting honest information on food packaging,” Ms Martin said.

“There will be alot of products that will be impacted by this.

“These products will be able to be trusted more by consumers.”

But it will be some time before consumers see any labelling changes, with the ministers agreeing to a four year transition period for the “no added sugar(s)” and “unsweetened” nutrition content claims.

Assistant Health Minister Ged Kearney welcomed the changes to the code.

“Food labelling needs to empower people to make healthy choices. It shouldn’t be overly complex or confusing,” she said.

“I’m particularly proud these changes to ‘no added sugar’ claims will assist parents make informed decisions about sugar intake and the health of their children.”

Consumers are likely to see further changes around toddler and infant food, with the Australian and New Zealand ministers agreeing to improve labelling around sugar, sodium and iron.

“Labelling does not support carers to make informed choices for infants and young children due to product naming not always accurately reflecting ingredients,” a report agreed to by the ministers says.

The ministers have also requested the authority carry out further consumer research to better understand whether carbohydrate and sugar claims on alcoholic beverages are misleading consumers.

Ministers will meet again in the first half of 2024.


Liv Casben
(Australian Associated Press)


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