The World Health Organisation recommends that intakes of free sugars make up equal or less than 10% of total energy intake. In Australia, 72% of school age children (4-18 years of age) and 47% of adults (aged 19-71 years of age) exceed this recommendation.
The presence of free sugars is not easily identifiable to shoppers as food labels disclose only ‘Total Sugar’. This means that sugar from unprocessed fruit, vegetables and dairy ingredients are displayed together with free sugars. For example, in a strawberry yoghurt it is not possible for a shopper to know how much sugar is from whole strawberries and milk (naturally occurring and not posing any health risk) and how much is from free sugars added during processing (strawberry juice and cane sugar).
Recent research shows that 80% of Australian adults agree that added sugar labelling should be included on food products, and 78% agree that manufacturers should reduce the amount of added sugar in their products. Food for Health Alliance and many other leading public health and consumer organisations agree.
Reforms are needed to better inform consumers about sugars they should be limiting or avoiding in their diets. The labelling of ‘added sugar’ is currently under consideration by Food Standards Australia New Zealand, the body responsible for setting food standards in both Australia and New Zealand.
Food for Health Alliance has engaged with FSANZ since the labelling review, released in January 2011, first recommended investigating labelling approaches for providing information on sugars. For added sugar labelling to be useful for consumers:
The definition of ‘added sugar’ must include all sugars that consumers should be limiting or avoiding in their diets (including sugars extracted from fruit, including all free sugars); and;
‘added sugar’ must be listed as a separate line item on the nutrition information panel.