Dentists applaud plans for more transparent sugar labelling

21 August 2019

With federal and state food ministers calling for Food Standards Australian New Zealand (FSANZ) to review nutrition labelling for added sugars, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) believes it’s a huge step in the right direction in the fight against tooth decay.

The World Health Organisation recommends just six teaspoons of sugar as our daily maximum to prevent tooth decay. If the recommendations are applied consumers may get a surprise when they find out with more transparent labelling not only that their soft drink contains up to 16 teaspoons of sugar in one 600ml bottle, but also how much added sugar is in products like muesli bars, cereals and sauces.

“If the FSANZ adopts the recommendations from the Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation on mandatory ‘added sugar’ labelling on drinks and packaged foods, it would take a lot of the guesswork out of shopping for Australian consumers,” said ADA spokesperson Dr Mikaela Chinotti.

“At the moment consumers may look at labels and not be able to recognise how much is added sugar – so separating natural from added sweeteners on nutrition panels would provide the information shoppers need to make informed choices.”

This recommendation is long overdue, says the ADA. “What is there for FSANZ even to consider?” said Dr Chinotti. “You only have to look at the facts from Australia's Oral Health Tracker created by ADA and Australian Health Policy Collaboration research to see this measure is badly-needed.”

Tracker stats show:

- 70% of children aged 9-13 and 73% aged 14-18 have too much sugar according to WHO guidelines

- 48% adults also have too much sugar every day, and

- tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in both adults and children across Australia.

Further, Professor Richard Watt, lead author of an international study on the impact of sugar on dental disease published in The Lancet last month concluded “that sugar consumption remains the primary cause of disease development.”

Food labelling rules currently see added and naturally occurring sugars put together in the one figure on labels, making it difficult for consumers to discern which is naturally occurring and which is not. Added sugar is also disguised as cane syrup, fructose and dextrose in the ingredients panel.
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