Public health praise moves to curb food industry’s misleading ‘no added sugar’ claims

4 Dec 2023

Public health experts and consumer groups have backed moves by the food regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), to safeguard consumer health by preventing the food industry from plastering high-sugar packaged products with misleading ‘no added sugar’ claims. 

A variation to the Food Standards Code approved by Food Ministers on Friday will see packaged foods and beverages high in sugars no longer able to carry ‘no added sugar’ claims. These changes will ensure 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. 

Food for Health Alliance Executive Manager, Jane Martin commended FSANZ for prioritising community health and agreed this is a win-win for consumers. 

“Australian families, juggling busy schedules, try their best to look after their diets and health, but the processed food industry regularly spruiks its food and drink products in ways that make it hard to know what’s in them,” Ms Martin said. 

Currently, no added sugar’ claims are permitted on foods high in sugars so cannot be trusted by consumers to provide accurate nutrition information as they do their weekly grocery shop. 

According to recent data from Cancer Council Victoria’s Shape of Australia surveyi, 92% of Australians surveyed agree that ‘no added sugar’ claims suggest a product is ‘better for you’, which indicate these types of claims may impact consumer perceptions. 

No added sugar claims create a ‘health halo, which conveys to time-poor shoppers that products may be ‘better for you. In reality, many packaged food and drinks, which carry these claims are high in sugars.” Ms Martin explained. 

Dr Sandro Demaio, CEO of VicHealth – a Food for Health Alliance partner – also welcomed the move by FSANZ. 

We know that a diet high in added sugar can lead to tooth decay and increase the risk of chronic health problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers,” Dr Demaio said. 

All parents want their kids to grow up happy, healthy and strong. This move will make it easier for shoppers to know whether the food they’re buying for their families truly contains ‘no added sugar. 

Ms Martin said: “Setting higher standards for the food industry, by removing ‘no added sugar’ claims from food and drinks high in sugar is a significant first step towards greater labelling transparency across Australia.”  

We endorse and welcome efforts by FSANZ and government towards strengthening the Food Standards Code to protect health and address misleading labelling practices that can affect consumer choice.