AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND – In a bid to demystify the often-confusing world of food labels, Australian and New Zealand Ministers overseeing the food industry have pointed out the need for clear definitions concerning ‘added sugars’ on nutrition labels.

While there was unanimous agreement about the necessity of including information about ‘added sugars,’ concerns were raised about the complexities of quantifying this data.

Speaking at the quarterly Food Ministers’ Meeting, the Ministers, guided by findings from a systematic literature review by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), expressed reservations about a straightforward quantification approach.

The review revealed that a substantial portion of consumers (17% – 30%) lacked a proper understanding of what ‘no added sugar’ truly meant. There were worries that a mere quantitative approach might create a misleading health halo effect in the market.

To address this issue, the ministers proposed a holistic solution: the incorporation of a clear and concise definition of ‘added sugar’ into the Food Standards Code.

This move is aimed at ensuring that claims related to added sugars align with established dietary guidelines, thus empowering consumers to make more informed choices about their food.

FSANZ CEO Dr Sandra Cuthbert said the Code permits voluntary ‘no added sugar’ claims to be made on foods

“Australian and New Zealand Food Ministers have asked FSANZ to ensure voluntary no added sugar claims align with Australian and New Zealand dietary guidelines to help consumers make informed decisions in line with these guidelines,” Dr Cuthbert said. 

“Australian dietary guidelines recommend limiting intake of foods and drinks containing added sugars, while New Zealand guidelines recommend choosing and/or preparing foods and drinks with little or no added sugars.”

In an effort to include diverse perspectives, FSANZ launched a three-week public consultation in September 2023. This initiative invites industry stakeholders and consumers alike to contribute their thoughts on what the precise definition of ‘added sugars’ should encompass.

Once the definition is established, the focus will shift to determining how this information should be displayed on nutritional panels and packaging.

The Ministers are considering various options, including direct quantification, the use of informative pictorials on sugary beverages, and altering the statement of ingredients to identify sugars-based components.

Consumer testing will play a pivotal role in determining the most effective way to incorporate ‘added sugars’ information into nutritional panels and front-of-package labeling.

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