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DTI zeroes in on energy drinks for sugar labeling

(Source: Business World | July 5, 2018)

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has identified energy drinks as one of the products that it wants to label “High in Sugar” under proposed new labeling rules.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said the DTI has recommended to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the inclusion of information on sugar content per pack and per serving on front-of-pack labels for packaged beverages — both liquid or powdered.

“This will increase the consciousness of consumers with respect to sugar intake,” Mr. Lopez told reporters in a mobile message, adding that the move is authorized by the country’s Consumer Act of 1992. Under the law, manufacturers are directed to provide accurate details on the nature and quantity of the contents of various products.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has expressed a need to inform consumers more accurately about the sugar content of beverages.

The DTI noted that the consumption of sugar is not inherently dangerous.

As such, it did not require beverage makers to place a “warning” label, which might have classified sweetened drinks as “sin” products like cigarettes and alcohol.

“In consultation with the FDA, FNRI (Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology) and NNC (the Health Department’s National Nutrition Council), it was revealed that there is also no technical definition of what is a high amount of sugar in a drink. But there is a prescribed amount of sugar as a source of energy, that is equivalent to not more than 50 grams of sugar in an average 2,000 calorie diet per day. There are other foods and beverages that a person consumes in a day that are sources of calories,” he said.

The DTI is recommending that the Food and Drug Administration, in consultation with agencies such as the Food and Nutrition Research Institute and stakeholders, to adopt a benchmark that requires special labeling for amounts greater than 25 grams of sugar per 200 milliliter (ml) serving.

This standard, according to Mr. Lopez, will cover energy drinks that typically have 46 grams of sugar per 240-ml serving.

“[T]here are beverages like energy drinks that are really high in sugar… This one drink is already close to the maximum 50-gram sugar intake per day. If that is 330 ml bottle, then it would be around 63.2 grams of sugar per bottle,” the Trade chief said.

“For this type of drink, we would strongly suggest to the FDA to add the words High in Sugar, before mentioning the sugar content in the label,” he added.

As for powdered juice drinks in packs, he said dilution could help bring the category below the 25-gram benchmark.

“This is way below for example a regular soft drink with 25 grams of sugar per 240 ml serving,” Mr. Lopez added.

The DTI reiterated that it will allow a transition period for beverage makers to use up current packaging.

The Beverage Industry Association of the Philippines has backed the government’s move to change labeling rules, saying it is “committed to transparency and providing clear, accessible nutrition information to consumers.”

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