The Australian Beverages Council has called on all non-alcoholic beverage producers to pledge to reduce the amount of sugar in drinks by 20% by 2025.
The pledge calls for a 10% reduction in sugar by 2020, and a further 10% reduction by 2025. It will be independently evaluated by an auditor in coming months.
Geoff Parker, chief executive officer with the Australian Beverages Council, says 80% of the industry, including major companies such as Coca-Cola South Pacific, Coca-Cola Amatil, PepsiCo, Asahi Beverages and Frucor Suntory, has agreed to support the pledge.
The Federal Government has backed the move, with Health Minister Greg Hunt calling it “a truly historic commitment”.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) says in 2011-12, Australians consumed an average of 60 grams of free sugars per day, equivalent to 14 teaspoons of white sugar. Intakes of free sugars were highest among teenage males aged 14-18 years, who consumed an average 92 grams per day. Just over half (52%) of free sugars in the diet were consumed from beverages.
The commitment will be an average across the industry, so a company can reduce its use of sugar simply by producing more low-kilojoule soft drinks or bottled water. There is no guarantee that any individual soft drink product would be required to reduce its sugar content.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Tony Bartone said the soft drink industry was trying to distract from AMA calls for the Government to discourage the consumption of sugary drinks by imposing a tax on them.
Minister Hunt denies this, saying the government will not support such a tax, because it doesn't want to see the price of groceries go up.
Mr Parker both major political parties have rejected such tax, adding: “There is no discernible evidence from anywhere in the world that such a tax has any impact on public health.” He believes regulation within the industry would have a greater effect than a tax.