SINGAPORE: Seven soft drinks makers, including Coca-Cola, Nestlé and PepsiCo, have agreed to limit the amount of sugar in their products sold in Singapore as the government seeks to tackle issues like diabetes.

Local manufacturers F&N Foods and Yeo Hiap Seng, Malaysia Dairy Industries and Japan’s Pokka are also participating in the plan to cut sugar levels in products to 12% or lower by 2020.

According to the Ministry of Health, these seven players account for 70% of the “pre-packaged sugar-sweetened beverages market” in Singapore and the move could potentially remove 300,000kg of sugar consumption every year.

But the Straits Times noted that a typical 250 ml can would contain a maximum of 30g of sugar, or 7.5 teaspoons of sugar, and said most products already fell within the proposed limit.

PepsiCo, for example, said that 80% of its drinks sold in Singapore already contained 12% or less of added sugars and Coca-Cola claimed that 97% of its products sold in Singapore met these requirements, the Financial times, reported.

Nonetheless, the Financial Times said it was the first time a national health regulator in Asia had extracted such a commitment from major soft drinks producers. Elsewhere in the region, Brunei has implemented a tax on sugary drinks and the Philippines has introduced legislation that would increase a tax on sweetened drinks.

The Singapore announcement follows closely on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day rally speech in which he warned of the dangers of diabetes and obesity – one in ten Singaporeans has diabetes and one in ten five year olds is overweight – and singled out soft drinks for particular mention.

“Our children are most at risk because soft drinks are part of their lifestyle,” he said.

“The best is to drink plain water,” he added. “Better still, drink PUB [Public Utilities Board] water.”

Data sourced from Straits Times, The New Paper, Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff