Singapore is set to become the first country in the world to introduce mandatory front-of-pack nutrition labels and advertising prohibitions for less healthy pre-packaged sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) on mass media channels.

For the initiative, Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Health Promotion Board (HPB) consulted with a wide range of stakeholders and the public from 4 December 2018 to 25 January on measures to minimise sugar intake from pre-packaged SSBs.

Recommendations from the public consultation on SSBs include mandatory front-of-pack nutrition label, regulation on advertising, excise duty on manufacturers and importers and ban on the sale of higher-sugar SSBs.

MoH said that it received more than 4,000 responses and 84% supported mandatory front-of-pack labels. 71% backed the regulation on advertising to reduce the influence of advertisements on purchase and consumption choices of less healthy SSBs.

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Around 65% supported an excise duty to encourage manufacturers to reformulate and reduce the sugar levels in their drinks, while 48% supported a ban on the sale of higher-sugar SSBs.

Based on feedback from public and stakeholders, MoH said: “The Government has carefully considered the feedback received and reviewed existing overseas and local evidence.

“We will start by introducing two of the measures, specifically the front-of-pack nutrition label and advertising regulations, while we continue to explore an excise duty or a ban, which are more complex measures that require further study.”

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The Singapore government is also planning to launch a graded, colour-coded front-of-pack nutrient-summary label.

MoH added: “Together, these two measures will provide consumers with nutrition information, particularly on sugar content, to make informed choices and reduce the influence from advertising, thus encouraging healthier choices and spurring industry reformulation.

“These measures also complement MOH’s and HPB’s current promotional and educational efforts to shift the market towards healthier product offerings, as part of a sustainable long-term approach to reshape consumer behaviour and choices.”

In August 2017, the Government of Singapore announced a plan to limit the amount of sugar in soft drinks by 2020, with major companies including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé agreeing to cut the levels of added sugar in their soft drinks to 12% by 2020.