ADA’s advocacy on “added sugar” labeling having an effect

ADA advocacy efforts on food labelling are starting to have an impact.

In August, the Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation requested that Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) review nutrition labelling to quantify added sugars in the nutrition information panel on foods. Furthermore, the Forum agreed that further consideration is warranted on a pictorial approach to sugary beverages/sugarsweetened beverages.

Currently, few products voluntarily include ‘added sugar’ in their nutrition information panel in addition to the mandated “total sugars”. By not clearly defining the added vs natural sugars included in the food or drink item, consumers must look to the ingredient panel to analyse the type of included sugars.

This request is a win for health professionals and consumers with knowledge and awareness regarding nutrition and health. However, research and surveys have shown that not all consumers understand added sugars:

– Consumers have been reported to believe that ‘added sugars’ were in addition to the existing ‘sugars’ listed.

– Consumers have reported believing products carrying the claim “no added sugar” do not contain any sugar and therefore did not understand the product still contained natural sugars.

– In general, consumers were able to determine the healthier product with regards to sugars when given two products to compare. However, when given a single product to analyse, they experienced difficulties in determining whether the sugar level was low or high.

As dental practitioners, it is important to continue educating patients regarding sugar content, labelling and tooth-friendly foods and drinks. For Dental Health Week, the ADA released an Understanding Sugar fact sheet to inform readers what to look at when analysing sugar content.

Presently, the US is the only country to include added sugar in their labelling scheme. With a large number of Australian children and adults still consuming too much sugar per day, the ADA welcomes this ministerial request and will continue to push for greater awareness of the impact sugar has on oral health.

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