Make clearer how much sugar is in food and drinks

In 2014, I proposed that a sugar tax be introduced to discourage the overconsumption of sugar to control obesity and related illnesses that affect our population ("Combat obesity with 'fat' tax"; April 1, 2014).

The suggestion was not taken up. Since then, the situation has deteriorated to the extent that the Ministry of Health has had to declare war on obesity and diabetes ("MOH to wage war on diabetes"; April 14).

According to the Health Promotion Board, added sugar should contribute no more than 10 per cent of dietary energy. This translates to approximately 40g to 55g (eight to 11 teaspoons) daily.

Food and beverages laden with ridiculously high amounts of sugar are available everywhere.

The problem is that many consumers, especially parents and children, are unaware of exactly how much sugar is in their food and drinks.

We must inform them in a way that is easy to understand. I suggest that all food and beverage manufacturers be made to provide clearer front-of-product labelling which shows how many teaspoons of sugar are in their products.

Food and drinks containing more than two teaspoons of sugar per serving must carry a red warning label.

Advertisements for sugar-sweetened food and drinks must carry warnings of the risk of consuming excessive sugar. The warning should cover at least one-fifth of the poster.

If a sugar tax is not the solution, then the Government has to convince soft-drink manufacturers to move in the direction of sugar reduction.

Popular cafe chains, which offer drinks and snacks that are high in sugar and fat, should also immediately reduce the amount of sugar in their drinks, and improve their labelling.

Consumers would be less likely to choose sugary drinks or food if they see a health warning.

Edmund Lam (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2016, with the headline 'Make clearer how much sugar is in food and drinks'. Print Edition | Subscribe