30 March 2020
On 5 March 2020, Edwin Tong, Senior Minister of State for Health, delivered a speech at the Ministry of Health (“MOH”) Committee of Supply Debate 2020. The speech covered various issues, including MOH’s new regulatory measures for pre-packaged beverages that is expected to be published at the end of 2020 and come into effect in 2021.
Nutrient-summary label for pre-packaged beverages and advertising prohibition for some drinks
MOH will implement two new regulatory measures for pre-packaged beverages:
- Nutrient-summary label
- Advertising prohibition for beverages with high sugar and saturated fat content
The intention is to provide the public with the right information to make their own healthy choices, and simultaneously, encourage manufacturers to reformulate products and create healthier options.
All pre-packaged beverages will be given a colour-coded nutrient-summary label, called the “Nutri-Grade”. Grade A (in dark green), corresponds to the lowest sugar and saturated fat thresholds, while Grade D (in red), corresponds to the highest sugar and saturated fat thresholds. This provides a quick, at-a-glance summary of the nutritional quality of the beverage, allowing consumers to compare across products at the point of purchase.
Besides the grade, the sugar level of the beverage will be indicated as a percentage of the total volume. To illustrate, 12% on the label represents 12% sugar of the total volume in that particular product. This provides the public with more information so they can compare sugar levels across beverages within the same grade and across different pack sizes.
Pre-packaged beverages will be graded on a single set of nutrient thresholds, based on their sugar and saturated fat content. For example, beverages with more than 5% sugar content will be graded “C”, while beverages with more than 10% sugar content will be graded “‘D”. If a particular beverage contains a high amount of saturated fat, it may be “downgraded” to Grade D.
While all manufacturers are encouraged to label their products with the Nutri-Grade, the label will only be mandatory for beverages in Grades C and D. The label is intended to facilitate decisions at the point-of-purchase. The Nutri-Grade will not only be required to be displayed on the front of product packaging, but also at points of sale where customers do not have direct access to the product, such as e-commerce websites, vending machines and drink fountains.
Advertising prohibition for beverages with high sugar and saturated fat content
In addition to labelling requirements, advertising for Grade D beverages on all media platforms will be prohibited, including traditional and new media platforms across all time belts. MOH will continue to allow advertising of Grades A to C beverages, as well as all brand advertising.
These measures aim to encourage manufacturers to reformulate to create a wider range of healthier beverages and reduce the impact of advertising on consumer preferences.
Extension of measures to freshly prepared beverages
MOH will be extending the labelling and advertising measures to freshly prepared beverages.
Initially, these measures will apply only to larger chains, which are more likely to have consistent recipes, as well as significant reach and impact locally. MOH will study the local landscape to determine the appropriate criteria for what comprises a “large chain”. MOH will also consider the regulations in other jurisdictions with mandatory labelling in Food & Beverage (“F&B”) settings. These jurisdictions have adopted thresholds between 10 to 20 outlets to define large chains.
MOH may gradually extend these measures to more establishments. F&B outlets which are not considered “large chains” would be encouraged to voluntarily adopt these measures.
The Health Promotion Board is expected to continue support for industry reformulation efforts through initiatives such as the Healthier Ingredient Development Scheme and to launch a campaign to educate consumers on using the Nutri-Grade labels to guide purchases and consumption decisions.