Forum: Cutting sugary drinks: Don't overlook coffee shops, caterers

Sugary drinks.
Sugary drinks.PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

Soon it will be mandatory for drinks with medium to high sugar content to carry a label on the front of the pack to signal that they are unhealthy (S'pore to ban ads of packaged drinks with very high sugar, Oct 11).

These labels must make sense to ordinary people.

For example, the label on a can of Heaven and Earth Ice Lemon Tea lists the sugar content as 32g.

It may not immediately be apparent to a consumer what this means. But if this is translated to equivalent teaspoons, it becomes clearer: 32g = eight teaspoons of sugar.

Also, the Government's latest initiative to reduce sugar intake overlooks drinks sold in drink kiosks and coffee shops.

Teh tarik (milky tea) uses condensed milk, which typically has a high sugar content. According to HealthHub, a serving of teh tarik has five teaspoons of sugar.

Coffee shops do not offer any lower-sugar alternatives to sweetened condensed milk, though there are alternatives on the market.

The same goes for other popular drinks: pre-mixed lemonade and ice lemon tea made in coffee shops, to name a few. These drinks come with loads of sugar and consumers are rarely given less-sweet alternatives.

Event catering companies also supply sugary drinks at various functions. Their drink dispensers placed at the end of a buffet table are filled with highly sweetened, coloured drinks. Water is rarely served as an option.

While the focus on prepackaged drinks is a step in the right direction, proper attention needs to be paid to other sources of sugar.

Straits Times senior health correspondent Salma Khalik's suggestion of making drinking water freely available has a lot of merit (New moves in the right direction, but faster implementation needed, Oct 11).

To compensate for the loss of business for drink vendors, perhaps this could be a priced option at foodcourts.

Shikharesh Das

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2019, with the headline 'Cutting sugary drinks: Don't overlook coffee shops, caterers'. Print Edition | Subscribe