Singapore to ban adverts of drinks with high sugar content
Singapore is set to become the first country in the world to ban advertisements of packaged beverages with high sugar content.
The ban, which will apply to the least healthy sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), will cover all local mass media platforms, including broadcast, print, out-of-home and online channels.
Beverages such as soft drinks, juice, malted drinks, instant coffee and yogurt drinks will all be affected by the regulation.
Singapore has also announced plans to introduce a graded, colour-coded front-of-pack nutrient summary label, which will be mandatory for less healthy SSBs.
The label aims to help consumers identify less healthy SSBs and make more informed, healthier choices as well as encourage manufacturers to reformulate SSB products.
Under the labelling scheme, SSBs will be assigned a summary grade based on their nutritional quality, in which sugar will be a main but not the sole determinant. While the scheme will cover the range of healthier to less healthy SSBs, it will only be mandatory for the less healthy segments.
In a statement, Singapore’s Ministry of Health said: “Together, these two measures will provide consumers with nutrition information, particularly on sugar content, to make informed choices, and reduce influence from advertising, thus encouraging healthier choices and spurring industry reformulation.”
The ministry has decided to implement the regulations after reviewing the international and local evidence for such measures and taking into consideration feedback received a public consultation earlier this year.
More than 4,000 responses were received as part of the consultation from members of the public, health professionals, academics and representatives from the SSB and advertising industries.
A total of 84% supported mandatory front-of-pack labels and 71% backed the regulation of advertising to reduce the influence of advertisements on purchase and consumption choices of less healthy SSBs.
Meanwhile, 65% supported an excise duty to encourage manufacturers to reformulate and reduce the sugar levels in their drinks. However, there were concerns on increased costs, should manufacturers choose to pass on the cost to consumers.
Almost half (48%) of respondents called for a ban on the sale of higher-sugar SSBs to effectively remove access to such drinks, but some shared that it would deprive consumers of choice.
The Ministry of Health said it will “continue to explore an excise duty or a ban” on high-sugar beverages. It is urging urge SSB manufacturers to consider reformulating their drinks to contain less sugar as it further studies these measures.