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Media reports from Singapore claim its government will introduce health warnings on packaging and ban advertising for sugary drinks across all media platforms, including online and social media in the "next few years" .

The senior minister of state for law and health Edwin Tong, from the Ministry of Health, allegedly made the announcement at the Singapore Health & Biomedical Congress 2019 on 10 October, but Food & Drink Business has not been able to verify this by press time.

In a report on the government’s website, the government will introduce a colour-coded labelling system to give consumers an indication of how much sugar a drink contains. Those with the poorest grade will be affected by the advertising ban.

Coffee, tea or bubble tea – where the sugar content is determined by customers – initially won’t be affected, but Tong reportedly said they will eventually come under scrutiny.

A spokesperson for Coca-Cola Amatil told Food & Drink Business it was not aware of a similar plan being advanced by the Australian Government.

“There is a lot happening in Australia with labelling and the health star rating system, with much discussion about more government action, which we support. Our consumers tell us their biggest concern is around labelling, that without information about the product they can’t make an informed choice,” he said.

Managing director of corporate advisory firm Futureye Katherine Teh told Food & Drink Business the response spoke to the number of unanswered concerns there are about sugary drinks.

“It’s a fascinating response for a government committed to capitalism that they should restrict a product that is wanted. The choice of the individual will be removed because the risks are increasingly perceived as a collectivised risk to public health,” Teh said.

Teh said it is now “in the sphere of responsibility” for sugary drink companies to become proactive about assisting with public health solutions.

“Just as once miners didn’t think environmental management was a requirement for it to maintain its social licence for mining, social values change and with it the requirement for an industry to change its perceptions of its boundaries.

“Today miners report transparently about their environmental management and are expected to drive these improvements proactively by their investors, regulators and communities.

“Similarly, the sugary drinks companies have to switch strategies from defensiveness to being proactive about the social expectations being expressed or face this type of regulation in other markets,” she said.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show around one in two (48 per cent) adults consume either sugar sweetened drinks or diet drinks at least once per week. One in 11 people (9.1 per cent) consume sugar sweetened drinks daily and 22.6 per cent drink them on one to three days a week.

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