Ministry of Health to impose ad ban on unhealthy sugar drinks

In the latest move to clamp down on diabetes, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will be issuing a mandate for unhealthy packaged drinks to be labelled with a health grade and advertisements ban for those with the poorest score. The grading will primarily look at the level of added sugar, according to multiple media reports such as TODAY and ST.

While details of the measures will only be revealed in 2020, the ministry has proposed colour-coded labels on packaged drinks to inform consumers of sugar levels. Drinks made on the spot at retail stores, however, are not affected as sugar levels may be determined by customers. The advertisement ban for drinks with the poorest health grade, on the other hand, is said to cover all local mass media platforms, including websites and social media.

Meanwhile, MOH and the Health Promotion Board (HPB) will be conducting consumer focus group discussions with drink manufacturers and advertising firms to get their feedback as well as discuss the presentation of the labels. Once announced, the measures will reportedly take between one to four years to come into effect.

While unhealthy drinks are expected to be penalised, MOH senior minister of state Edwin Tong suggested that brands with a healthy grade could leverage the nutrition label for promotional purposes, though display of the labels remain optional. He was announcing the initiatives at the Singapore Health & Biomedical Congress, said the news reports.

Last December, the MOH and the HPB called for a public consultation from the general public and key stakeholders to provide feedback on the possible measures to reduce Singaporeans’ sugar intake from pre-packaged sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). MOH added that the introduction of the mandatory front-of-pack nutrition label on pre-packaged SSBs also complements the existing Healthier Choice Symbol programme.

The suggested measures ranged from front-of-pack nutrition labelling, and advertising regulations to reducing availability of sugary foods and drinks in schools and public institutions, as well as excise duties on SSBs. Discussion points include the option of either making the current restrictions mandatory and expanding it to include more TV time-belts and media channels that children are exposed to or to ban advertising across all time-belts and mass media channels.

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