Recently we (That Sugar Movement) submitted to the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation, our preferred options on how we think added sugar information should be communicated.
This reason for this consultation is because it is agreed that:
Information about sugar provided on food labels in Australia and New Zealand does not provide adequate contextual information to enable consumers to make informed choices in support of dietary guidelines.
The consultation asked stakeholders for their opinion on how we can effectively achieve this desired outcome:
Food labels provide adequate contextual information about sugars to enable consumers to make informed choices in support of the dietary guidelines.
There were six proposed options (besides the status quo) to be considered:
- Education on how to read and interpret labelling information about sugars
- Change the statement of ingredients to overtly identify sugar-based ingredients
- Added sugars quantified in the nutrition information panel (NIP)
- Advisory labels for foods high in added sugar
- Pictorial display of the amount of sugars and/or added sugars in a serving of food
- Digital linking to off label web-based information about added sugar content.
Because we value our audience as a passionate and valuable source of information, we asked you to complete a survey to help inform our submission. This also meant you had some input in this submission, which could potentially help shape the policy and ultimately improve the health of Australia and New Zealand, so thank you!
We had a strong 434 sample size with ages ranging from 18 to over 75 years old. The majority resided in Australia (n= 343) but also included respondents from New Zealand, the United States of America, United Kingdom, Canada and other.
Here are six key insights from the survey:
1- The following indicated to us that there is a need for more education around sugar and nutrition
- While over half correctly agreed that “all sugars are carbohydrates”, 45% were unsure of this statement or thought all carbohydrates are sugar.
- Less than half of respondents correctly identified this statement that best describes added sugars: “Naturally occurring and refined sugars such as table sugar, syrups, honey, juice, and concentrated juice, which are added to a product.”
2- We know that you actively seek information on added sugar
- The three top things you look for on a label when selecting a product are:
- Sugar content
- The ingredients used
- Carbohydrate content
- To determine the added sugar content of a product, 38% of you look at the both the Nutritional Information Panel for Total Sugar content and read the ingredients list – BRAVO!
3- Claims on the front of the packet also help inform product choices
- 28% of you look at claims made such as “Sugar Free”, “Lactose Free”, “Low Sugar”, “Low Fat”, “Lite”, “Organic”, Health Star Rating.
4- General consensus is, we aren’t provided with adequate information and advice
- Over 90% of you agree that the current food labels do not give you enough information about added sugar content in a product.
- 62% of you told us that the current dietary guidelines are not adequate in providing guidance around daily added sugar intake.
5- The majority of respondents think…
- A front-of-pack warning for products high in added sugar OR a teaspoon or sugar cube logo demonstrating sugar content could be effective ways to-
- change people’s buying behaviour
- help adults understand added sugar content
- help children understand added sugar content.
6- Because we aren’t being given adequate information on added sugars
- 96% of you would like to see government regulation on Added Sugars being clearly stated on the Nutrition Information Panel.
- Conversely, less than 4% felt the inclusion should be at the discretion of food manufacturers.
- 82% would like to see the government get behind education programs on sugar in food and how to read food labels.
To those who contributed, thank you once again for taking the time to do so. That Sugar Movement believes the outcome should be a multi-pronged approach involving more transparent food labelling coupled with ongoing nutrition education. In terms of labelling, at the minimum, we would like to see the government mandate added sugars being quantified on the Nutrition Information Panel and added sugars clearly stated in the ingredients list. On our wish list, we want to see more regulation around the front of pack claims so there is less chance of communicating misleading information. While we await the outcome, That Sugar Movement will continue to do what we do best, provide you with sound accessible nutrition information!
By Jennifer Peters, ANutr
Public Health Nutritionist