THE Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Tuesday that it does not have the technical capacity to determine whether beverages are sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which affects how beverages are taxed.
The FDA was testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee, where Rep. Estrellita B. Suansing, the committee’s senior vice chair from Nueva Ecija’s first district, was looking into the FDA’s alleged failure to properly implement the excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB).
The excise tax took effect on Jan. 1, 2018 as part of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law. TRAIN imposed a P12 per liter tax on beverages using high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and a P6 per liter tax on beverages using local sugar.
“Pinapabayaan nila yung mga companies mag-register online and they don’t have the capability to check the item itself or the sugar-sweetened beverage itself na ma-check kung HFCS or local sugar. Kung local sugar ang ginagamit hindi sana magsa-suffer yung local sugar farmers natin na bumagsak yung industry (The FDA allows companies to register products online and they don’t have the capability to tell whether a product really uses sugar or HFCS. If drinks makers really used more sugar our farmers would not suffer and the industry would not collapse)” Ms. Suansing said.
The FDA’s Director for Food Regulation and Research Marilyn P. Pagayunan said that companies typically upload the ingredients of their products when they register online.
She said the FDA cannot independently determine the sweetener used in a given product.
“There is a need for FDA to purchase or procure more equipment for HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography) tests,” she said. “Ayun po tina-try po namin magkaroon para ma-determine namin kung nagsisinungaling po yung mga manufacturers (We are trying to obtain such equipment to verify the manufacturers’ claims,” Ms. Pagayunan said.
She added, “The laboratory doing all the testing (has only one) HPLC machine, (and) there are lots of tests.”
According to the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s Revenue Regulations No. 20-2018, the excise tax covers sweetened juice drinks; sweetened tea; all carbonated beverages; flavored water; energy and sports drinks; other powdered drinks not classified as milk, juice, tea, and coffee; cereal and grain beverages; and other non-alcoholic beverages that contain added sugar. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras