In April 2017 the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (Forum) agreed to a Stage 1 work program on sugar that included:
- further evidence gathering activities by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) on consumer understanding and behaviour;
- international approaches to sugar labelling; and
- an update of the policy context.
The following three reports were considered by the Forum at its meeting on 24 November 2017:
In light of findings in the reports, and noting Forum Ministers’ desire to take a whole-of-diet, holistic approach to food labelling, the Forum agreed that information about sugar provided on food labels does not provide adequate contextual information to enable consumers to make informed choices in support of dietary guidelines. Forum Ministers agreed to continue examining regulatory and non regulatory options to address this issue.
The Forum also noted the range of existing complementary initiatives outside of the food regulation system that address sugar intakes, such as the five year review of the Health Star Rating system, policy work underway on the labelling of fats and oils, and the work of the Healthy Food Partnership.
The Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) is responsible for coordinating policy advice to the Forum and facilitated stakeholder consultation on a range of policy options in relation to the labelling of sugars on packaged foods and drinks. Consultation was undertaken for a ten-week period between 11 July and 28 September 2018. The proposed policy options consulted on were:
- Status quo;
- Education on how to read and interpret labelling information about sugars;
- Change the statement of ingredients to overtly identify sugars-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; and
- Digital linking to off label web-based information about added sugar content.
Over 160 submissions were received from a cross-section of stakeholders including individuals, industry, public health, government and academic groups. Submissions and relevant research and evidence were analysed by a FRSC reference group and a Policy Paper: Labelling of sugars on packaged foods and drinks (Policy Paper) was developed that identifies which of the proposed policy options would best provide consumers with information to enable them to make an informed choice in relation to sugars.
On 16 August 2019 Forum Ministers noted the Policy Paper prepared by the FRSC. Based on the Policy Paper, the Forum agreed to request that FSANZ review nutrition labelling for added sugars, noting that the option to quantify added sugars in the NIP (Option 4) best met the desired outcome. Furthermore, the Forum agreed that a pictorial approach applied to sugary beverages / sugar-sweetened beverages (Option 6) warrants further consideration, along with other options, pending the response to the HSR five-year review.
The Forum further agreed that any label changes that may result should be accompanied by education to support consumers to understand sugars labelling and make informed healthy choices.
The Policy Paper is available below: