Replies - Students' health

Sugar level in drinks reviewed regularly

We thank Ms Mizue Sauco for her feedback (Remove sugary drinks from all primary schools, July 22).

The Health Promotion Board (HPB) recognises that a high sugar intake contributes to an increased risk of obesity and diabetes.

To nurture healthy habits and cultivate children's developing palates from young, only water and lower-sugar beverages that meet the permitted sugar threshold are allowed for sale in schools.

Artificially sweetened beverages are also disallowed, as part of conditioning the young to choose less sweet food and drinks.

Currently, schools may sell only drinks with no more than 5g per 100ml of sugar.

The sugar threshold is reviewed, and has been lowered, over time.

The current threshold is a further reduction of previous permitted levels - from 7g/100ml to 6g/100ml in 2016, and now to 5g/100ml.

There are schools that have independently disallowed any sugared drinks to be sold in their canteens. We applaud them for going beyond the guidelines set.

To further inculcate healthy habits, the Healthy Meals in Schools Programme, implemented in all mainstream schools, stipulates that there must be at least two water coolers in the canteen so that water is readily available.

This is to encourage students to choose water, even as lower-sugar drinks may be sold in schools.

These efforts are reinforced within the school curriculum.

Students are taught the importance of drinking at least eight glasses of water daily and choosing lower-sugar drinks bearing the Healthier Choice Symbol.

HPB also organises workshops to teach canteen vendors and parents how to prepare healthier meals.

Outside of the school setting, HPB works closely with drinks partners to provide healthier options, covering beverages that are popular with the young.

For example, major bubble tea and speciality drinks partners in the Healthier Dining Programme have at least 10 drinks or 30 per cent of their total drink items which are healthier.

We also recognise the impact that food advertising may have on children.

The Guidelines for Food Advertising to Children, introduced in 2015, limit advertising placement and content of all food and beverage products that are high in sugar, salt and fat targeted at children aged 12 and below.

HPB will continue to work closely with parents, schools and partners to cultivate healthy eating habits in children.

Vasuki Utravathy

Senior deputy director,

School Health Outreach

Health Promotion Board

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2021, with the headline 'Sugar level in drinks reviewed regularly'. Subscribe