Dateline Southeast Asia

Pokka calls for more government action to limit sugar consumption

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock
Singapore’s biggest beverage brand has begun reformulating its drinks to reduce their sugar content, and has called on the government to take wider action against lifestyle diseases.

Pokka’s move follows a recent initiative by the Health Promotion Board to seek commitments from drinks manufacturers that they will cap the quantity of sugar in beverages they produce.

The Japanese-owned brand said it was “fully confident​” of achieving the HPB’s target of a 12% limit by 2020, and has already started work to reduce sugar in its Soursop and Guava juice lines.

There is currently a flurry of activity among Singaporean health authorities as they look for ways to lower the impact of diabetes and other lifestyle diseases which have been hitting the island particularly hard.

In an address, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong described diabetes as a major long-term health problem in the country, affecting one in nine Singaporeans, and three in 10 among the elderly. 

More than 40% of Pokka’s portfolio meets Singapore’s Healthier Choice requirement to contain less than 6% sugar, the company said in a statement.

Launched in 2005, Healthier Choice now allows some 2,600 food and beverage brands to carry its symbol on their packaging to signify they comply with health requirements.

Only Pokka’s Soursop and Guava juice drinks, along with partner brands Kickapoo, Sinalco and Green Spot, now contain more than 12% sugar.

Though Pokka is taking action, Alain Ong, its chief executive, said the government’s sugar reduction initiative should be expanded to take in other aspects of healthy living.

"Reducing sugar in beverages alone is one-dimensional​,” he said. “Moving forward, our authorities should also adopt a holistic perspective of healthy living, regulating sugary food items such as snacks and confectioneries​.”

He also urged the HPB to “safeguard the meaning​” of their Healthier Choice symbol so it doesn’t endorse products which substitute sugar for intense artificial sweeteners.

He said: “The effect of such artificial sweeteners on our bodies is debatable. The symbol has come to be trusted as an assurance that endorsed products are safe and healthy to consume. Let's not cause confusion to consumers​."

More from Southeast Asia…

AGCO ties up with CP Foods to manufacture meat equipment in China

Global agri-equipment supplier AGCO will begin manufacturing protein production equipment in China through a joint-venture with CP Foods.

CP

Thai major CP is one of Asia-Pacific’s biggest producers of swine, chicken and eggs, while US-based AGCO distributes its machinery across five brands, including Challenger, Massy Ferguson and GSI.  

Each company will own 50% of the new business, which will set out to produce solutions to be used by AGCO’s GSI division and companies under the CP umbrella.

Manufacturing is expected to begin in early 2019 at a plant in Zhejiang province, China.

The joint venture will support CP’s planned expansion across Asia, while enabling AGCO to better serve other animal protein producers in the region, said Martin Richenhagen, AGCO’s chief executive.

Our new manufacturing joint venture with CP Foods will greatly expand GSI’s Asian production capabilities, and allow us to provide technologically advanced solutions for CP and other producers in China​,” he added.

‘Passive’ Vietnamese exporters struggling to cope with US regulations 

Vietnamese food exporters remain “passive and sluggish​” in complying with the demands of their target markets, especially America.

Vietnam US pin

Instead, they should continuously update their processes to ensure exports continue to markets with more rigorous requirements, delegates at an event hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam have been told.

Under US Food and Drug Administration rules, all foreign firms exporting food and beverages must re-register for food-safety approval every two years.

Yet even though Vietnamese businesses have “tried hard​” to comply with the FDA’s Food Safety Modernisation Act, an increasing number have been put on America’s alert list.

FDA data show that the number of approved Vietnamese businesses has fallen from 1,485 to 806 since last year, because 679 import licences were not re-registered in time, according to Mark Gillin, vice-chairman of the American chamber.

Ly Thi Tu Duyen, of Ben Tre Export, said Vietnamese firms are struggling to export goods to America due to its strict rules.

Vietnamese enterprises are confused when catching up with the changes in the FDA’s new regulations​,” he said.

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