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High-sugar product manufacturers buck ‘warning’ mark on labels

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By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The sugar sweetened beverage industry, which has been reeling from the impact of TRAIN 1, has opposed to putting a “warning” or “caution” mark for high-sugar content products, but agreed that sugar content in the label will be prominently displayed in the front of the product.

This developed after the industry met Wednesday with Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez to discuss the sugar content labeling requirement in consultation also with the Food and Drugs Administration.

“There is concern in using the words ‘warning’ or ‘caution’ since it will be detrimental to sweetened beverage industry, which is an industry already recently taxed in TRAIN 1. It will weaken further demand,” said Lopez.

To ensure consumers are properly informed, Lopez said the label will indicate sugar grammage content per pack like “This pack contains ____ gm sugar” or “_____gm per serving (200ml).”

“There is openness from the industry in putting a mark in front of the product the sugar and calorie content as long as there is no ‘Warning’ sign,” he said.

But the government agencies and the industry will  still determine which particular products should have a front label “High in Sugar” and indicate the sugar content.

Representatives at the meeting also agreed to a reasonable benchmark on the definition of “high in sugar” and which products must be included.

According to Lopez, the labelling requirement will cover not just cover softdrinks, but other ready-to-drink beverages, powder juices and concentrates. The beverage industry also stressed that the labelling requirement must also cover packaged food.

During the meeting, the industry informed Lopez that beverages are generally a low source of sugar and calorie in a day, typically around 3 percent. Other non-beverages are major sources of sugar like rice, bread, carbohydrates, other food products.

Although consumption of sugar is going down, the industry also stressed that sugar per se is not bad as long as this is taken moderately. It is a good source of energy and calories.

Sugar consumption has been blamed to the alarming increase in diabetes and other related diseases among Filipinos.

Discussions with the Food and Nutrition Research Institute and the National Nutrition Council will continue and more research work to determine the product coverage of this new labeling requirement, which Lopez targetted to be implemented by August this year although manufacturers are allowed to use up all existing labels.

Proper product labeling is part of the labeling and fair packaging under Article 74 of the Consumer Act of the Philippines, which provides compulsory labeling and fair packaging to obtain accurate info on nature and quantity of the contents of various products.

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