Tell your Health Minister to support added sugar labelling
On November 24, Health Ministers across Australia decide whether food companies should label added sugar. Let’s make sure they do the right thing: email your State or Territory Health Minister now.
Right now, the food industry is winning. They don’t have to declare how much sugar they add to their food products. This means Australians are unable to follow leading health advice to reduce added sugar intake.
This is not only detrimental to our health but also our teeth. Added sugar causes cavities and irreparable tooth damage. In 2013 over 63,000 people (mostly children) were hospitalised due to preventable dental issues such as cavities or tooth decay.
By adding your voice, the people with the power to decide about sugar labelling will have the support they need to spark change.
“Nutrition information panels lump added sugars in with naturally occurring ones, which aren’t such a dietary concern. There’s no way to sort one from the other.”
Professor Mike Berridge, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research as quoted in Consumer NZ, Olivia Wannan article ‘Hidden Sugar’
“We have solid evidence that keeping intake of free [added] sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay,”
Dr Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development.
High or frequent consumption of added sugars, particularly for infants and young children, is associated with increased risk of dental cavities.
How does this happen? Sugars provide food for the bacteria that dissolve tooth enamel and as sugar consumption increases, so do cavities. This damage is irreparable; the tooth cannot repair itself and individuals are left with life-long problems which require fillings, root canal work or extractions.
There is a growing problem with increasing rates of tooth decay, especially among children. One third of Australian children have experienced tooth decay by the age of 6 years in their baby teeth, increasing to 46% of children by the age of 10 years.
It isn’t cheap either. In 2015, expenditure on dental services was $9.9 billion, with over $5.7 billion paid directly by Australians.
In October 2017, the World Health Organisation produced a fact sheet highlighting the dangers of added sugar and tooth decay. They state that almost half of the world’s population is affected by dental caries (tooth decay or dental cavities), making it the most prevalent of all health conditions.
In Australia, food labels will only tell you the total sugar in a product, not the added stuff. And you can’t rely on the ingredient list because there are over 43 different names for added sugar.
It’s essential that people can easily tell the difference between foods with naturally occurring sugars, like lactose in yoghurt, and added sugars which have virtually no nutritional benefits. Currently this is virtually impossible.
The World Health Organisation and our Dietary Guidelines recommend we reduce our added sugar intake on the basis that overconsumption of added sugars presents serious health issues.
A CHOICE investigation found that added sugar labelling could help consumers avoid 26 teaspoons of unnecessary sugar per day – that’s up to 38 kilograms a year!
At their most recent meeting, Food Ministers renewed their commitment to improve the health of Australians. They want to help people make healthy food choices. Sugar labelling is a necessary step to achieving this.
In 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a recommendation that no more than 10% of total daily energy intake should come from added sugars. So for an average adult intake of 8,700 kilojoules, this equates to 52 grams or 13 teaspoons of added sugar.
How much sugar is in your food? Try this ABC quiz.
The WHO made a further recommendation that added sugar intake be reduced to below 5% of total energy intake. This recommendation was made because added sugars increase overall energy intake and may also reduce an individual’s intake of more nutritious foods, leading to an unhealthy diet, weight gain and increased risk of non-communicable diseases.
Correspondingly, the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines advises Australians to limit their intake of foods and beverages containing added sugar, especially all sugar sweetened drinks, sports drinks, confectionery, biscuits and cakes.
Read the CHOICE Report into added sugar labelling in Australia Published April 2017
Read the CHOICE Added sugar article. Published April 2017
World Health Organisation (WHO)
Guidelines and recommendations
Read the WHO Sugars intake for adults and children guideline
Read the WHO urges global action to curtail consumption and health impacts of sugary drinks media release
Read the WHO Reducing free sugars intake in children and adults recommendations
Read the WHO Reducing free sugars intake in adults to reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases intervention guideline
Read the WHO Reducing free sugars intake in children to reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases intervention guideline