Duterte wants warning labels on sugary drinks

MANILA — Filipinos who are fond of drinking powdered juice might want to think twice the next time they purchase this sugar-sweetened beverage in the groceries.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez on Wednesday said that health warnings, similar to those used in cigarettes, may soon be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages.

Lopez bared that it was President Rodrigo R. Duterte himself who thought of this initiative after learning that most powdered juices contain high levels of sugar and could pose health risks such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

May directive ang Presidente na kailangan may warning itong mga sugar-sweetened beverages (The President has a directive that there should be warnings on sugar sweetened beverages),” Lopez said in a Palace briefing.

According to Lopez, Duterte wanted truth in labeling since powdered juices were sometimes given as gifts to the elderly and the sick.

Nag-worry yung Presidente, ‘so papaano yan, ‘yan pa naman usually yung pinang-reregalo sa may sakit (The President was worried saying, ‘how is that? That’s usually what they give to the sick),” Lopez said.

Kung (If there’s) high sugar, ilagay sa harap na (it should be labeled in front) ‘containing high sugar’ so para bang (it’s similar to cigarette’s) ‘it can be dangerous to your health,’” he added.

Consult with stakeholders

Lopez said that the DTI will be issuing the order to place health warnings on sugar-sweetened beverages after consulting with stakeholders, to identify which particular products contain high levels of sugar in their ingredients, as many consumers do not read food labels.

“We’ll issue the necessary order in that regard but we’ll have to talk again to the stakeholders as we implement that directive from the President,” Lopez said.

We will have to select kung ano talaga dito, especially kung ang may ingredient is talagang sugar and (We will have to select which among these products, especially if the ingredient is really sugar and) it’s not really clear on that product. Many people hindi po tumitingin sa likod, ‘yung ingredients (don’t check the ingredients at the back),” he added.

Moreover, he said that his agency will also be coordinating with concerned agencies including the Department of Health (DOH) and its attached agency, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Beyond the labeling requirements, there can be also part of the label such warning. It will have to be with the FDA of the DOH that will really execute this particular policy or ruling kasi under sa kanila yung mga labeling (because they are in charge of labeling),” Lopez said.

Lopez also said that the DTI will need one or two months to facilitate the implementation of the President’s directive.

Asked if the President had any health concerns, which might have pushed him to suggest warnings on sugar-sweetened beverages, Lopez said that Duterte did not have any.

Wala. Ako meron. Pero si Presidente wala. Hindi napag-usapan yung diabetes (None. But I do. The President doesn’t have any health concerns. We did not get to talk about diabetes),” Lopez said.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are among the products slapped with excise tax under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.

An excise rate of PHP6 per liter will be taxed on drinks containing caloric or non-caloric sweetener, and PHP12 per liter on drinks containing high-fructose corn syrup.

Aside from powdered juice, common examples of sugar-sweetened products include carbonated beverages, and sports and energy drinks. PNA-northboundasia.com