Health ministers ignore demands for better food labelling

The Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch (ADAVB) is disappointed that health ministers delayed deciding about added-sugar labelling when they met at the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation on November 24.

Health advocates and consumer groups have been calling for added-sugar labelling to be legislated to make it easier for consumers to understand how much added sugar is in food and drinks. A recent Choice Australia campaign, supported by the Australian Dental Association, resulted in more than 20,000 consumers contacting their health minister to urge them to make the right decision about added-sugar labelling.

“This is a disappointing outcome from health ministers, who are yet again siding with the food and beverage industry and delaying making a decision on added-sugar labelling,” ADAVB CEO Associate Professor Matthew Hopcraft said.

“They’ve had plenty of opportunities to take action and this delay means that Australian consumers still have no idea how much added sugar they’re consuming.”

Australians are consuming an average of 14 teaspoons of added sugar a day, and teenagers an average 22 a day.

The World Health Organisation reviewed the evidence that links added-sugar consumption to a range of health problems, including tooth decay, overweight and obesity and type 2 diabetes, and made recommendations to reduce added or free-sugar consumption to fewer than 12 teaspoons a day and, ideally, fewer than six.

“The decision by health ministers to protect the interests of the food and beverage industry will deny consumers the opportunity to easily meet this target, and over-consumption of sugar will continue to have a negative impact on Australians’ dental health,” Professor Hopcraft said.

“Other countries have successfully implemented similar measures, so this decision demonstrates the unhealthy influence that industry has over respective state and federal governments.”

Clearer labelling means consumers can make informed choices about what they are eating and drinking. Professor Hopcraft is encouraging Australians to urge health ministers to stop this unacceptable delay in legislating added-sugar labelling by visiting the Choice campaign website: sugar.

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