Singapore considering sugar tax and ban on packaged drinks with high sugar level

Sugared drinks sold at a supermarket in Singapore (Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Health Promotion Board are seeking public feedback on four possible measures to reduce Singaporeans’ sugar intake from pre-packaged sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).

The proposals are a tax on makers and importers of pre-packaged SSBs, a ban on such drinks with higher sugar level, tighter rules on related advertisements, and compulsory front-of-pack nutrition labels, MOH said in a statement. The public consultation paper is part of the war on diabetes amid concerns of the high number of Singapore residents with the disease and a projected increase in such cases.

On the possible introduction of a sugar tax, MOH said, “The objective of imposing duties on SSBs, if introduced, is not for revenue generation, but to shape the behaviour of manufacturers and consumers. Duties on SSBs aim to encourage manufacturers to reformulate their products and to encourage consumers to choose healthier drinks that are lower in sugar content or drink plain water.”

Another proposal is a nationwide ban on the sale of higher sugar pre-packaged SSBs to discourage consumption of such drinks.

On advertising rules, Singapore currently has voluntary guidelines to limit the advertising of less healthy food and drinks to children, which cover only limited TV time-belts and media channels. MOH is considering two options: making the current restrictions mandatory and expanding them to include more TV time-belts and media channels, and banning such advertising on mass media channels.

Another possible measure is to introduce compulsory front-of-pack nutrition labels on pre-packaged SSBs as evidence has shown that such labels are effective in helping consumers to identify products with higher sugar content.

The four proposals in the public consultation paper can be found on REACH at http://www.reach.gov.sg/sugarydrinks. Members of the public can submit their views and feedback by 6pm, 25 January 2019.

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