By Janina C. Lim
THE beverage industry, on which the government plans to impose sugar content labels, has said that the requirement must apply to packaged food products as well.
Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told reporters on Thursday in a mobile message that in a meeting with beverage industry stakeholders, the latter wanted the warning label policy to apply to sweetened food products.
“The labeling requirement must also cover packaged food, according to the beverage industry,” Mr. Lopez said, referring to the outcome of the consultation.
Mr. Lopez has warned the beverage industry to be ready to comply with warning label rules by August, though he added that the rules are still being worked out.
“I need to still meet FNRI (Food and Nutrition Research Institute) and National Nutrition Council and continue research work to determine a reasonable benchmark for a definition of ‘high in sugar,’ and which products must be included,” Mr. Lopez said.
He also noted that the beverage industry was worried that the labels will be characterized as a “warning” or “caution,” which could “weaken demand further” after the government’s tax reform program imposed excise taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks.
“We emphasized that we are not really taxing but more to raise consciousness of consumers on sugar content — more of making more prominent the sugar content of the product. Similar to calorie content in the labels,” he added.
“There is openness from the industry in putting a mark in front of the product indicating the sugar and calorie content, as long as there is no ‘warning’ sign because they say sugar per se is not totally bad.”
The DTI is proposing that manufacturers indicate the amount of sugar per gram of a product, instead of the current standard where packaging indicates overall sugar content.
“Whatever the decision, we will set a transition period to allow them to use up current packaging,” Mr. Lopez added, noting that this would help keep firms from bearing added costs.