The Australian Federal Government has backed a contentious plan to reduce the sugar intake of soft drink consumers, prompting criticism from the medical industry.
The Australian Beverages Council (ABC), which was responsible for the country’s non-alcoholic drinks, and Greg Hunt, Australia’s Health Minister, announced a plan to reduce sugar use by 20 per cent by 2025 when they addressed reporters in Canberra on Monday.
The commitment was set to be an average across the soft drink industry, which meant companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi could reduce sugar levels by introducing more low-sugar lines or even bottled water, while they maintained current sugar levels in existing products.
The minister for health said this still served as an example of the soft drink industry looking to regulate itself and was “the most significant change in food or beverage formulation in Australia.”
“As a country, we can help tackle the obesity epidemic through the practice of industry, through participation and with the support of the government,” Hunt said.
“If you can work with the industry and get an outcome such as this, you get exactly the outcome we all want: healthier products, healthier children and healthier adults.”
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has criticised the government’s plan and said it was being used as a “diversion” from the sugar tax discussion.
“We consume too much sugar in our soft drinks, we consume too much soft drinks in total,” AMA president, Tony Bartone, said.
“A sugar tax will address the problem of trying to reduce the consumption, which is at the heart of the problem.”
Geoff Parker, the Chief Executive of the ABC, said the commitment would be “quite costly” and “really hard” for soft drink manufacturers, and it had “nothing to do” with protecting against a potential sugar tax.