Food review to look at added sugar labels

State and federal ministers want food authorities to look at compulsory added sugar labels.
State and federal ministers want food authorities to look at compulsory added sugar labels.

The nation's health ministers have ordered a review to consider making it compulsory for packaged foods and drinks to carry labels quantifying the amount of added sugar they contain.

The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation chaired by Tasmanian senator Richard Colbeck specifically wants foods standards authorities to look at a "pictorial approach" to labelling sugary drinks.

The move would potentially see Coca-Cola and other soft drinks slapped with demands to display pictures of multiple teaspoons of sugar on their labels.

The idea is more broadly aimed at making it easier for consumers to distinguish between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars so they can weigh up how good or bad a product is for their health.

"The forum agreed to request that Food Standards Australia New Zealand review nutrition labelling for added sugars, noting that the option to quantify added sugars in the nutrition information panel best met the desired outcome," according to a communique released by the forum.

"Furthermore, the forum agreed that a pictorial approach applied to sugary beverages/sugar-sweetened beverages warrants further consideration, along with other options, pending the response to the HSR five-year review."

The ministers agreed that consumers should have access to food labelling that provides "adequate contextual information about sugars" to enable them to make more informed choices.

They further agreed that any label changes should be accompanied by education.

Public Health Association of Australia chief executive Terry Slevin has told the Sydney Morning Herald the labelling of sugars on packaged foods and drinks needs to be enacted.

Mr Slevin says the initiative should be incorporated into the calculation of health star ratings, something which had been recommended by an independent health star rating review.

Australian Associated Press