Colour coding for sugar reduction: Sri Lanka next to implement traffic light labelling system for packaged foods

By Pearly Neo contact

- Last updated on GMT

Sri Lanka will implement a traffic light coding system for packaged foods in the country, targeting specified levels of sugar, salt and fat content following success of the system’s application to soft drinks in the country. ©Getty Images
Sri Lanka will implement a traffic light coding system for packaged foods in the country, targeting specified levels of sugar, salt and fat content following success of the system’s application to soft drinks in the country. ©Getty Images

Related tags: Sri lanka, Traffic light labelling, Packaged Food

Sri Lanka will implement a traffic light coding system for packaged foods in the country, targeting specified levels of sugar, salt and fat content following success of the system’s application to soft drinks in the country.

According to documents on the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health website, these new regulations will come into force on June 1 this year.

Food products that contain more than 22g of sugar per 100g will be given a red label, 8g to 22g sugar per 100g an amber label, and less than 8g a green label. Salt content of more than 1.25g per 100g will be labelled red, 0.25g to 1.25g marked amber and less than 0.25g marked green.

As for fat content, foods containing more than 17.5g per 100g will be given a red label, 3g to 17.3g an amber label and less than 3g a green label.

A previous draft of the regulations published last year had also included the terms ‘High Sugar’, ‘High Salt’ ​or ‘High Fat’​ to be included on the label. This appears to have been removed in the final regulations.

"There are a large number of biscuit and sweets manufacturers in Sri Lanka and they sell over 80,000 tons in the country. We need to reduce the use of sugar in these products,”​ said Sri Lankan Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne to NewsInAsia​.

"Since a number of biscuit manufacturers export their products to around 55 countries, they agreed to introduce a colour coding scheme that is internationally accepted.”

He added that discussions on the system had been in progress since April 2018.

The traffic light labelling system had previously been introduced in the country on soft drinks back in 2016, where beverages with over 11g of sugar per 100ml were marked red, 2g to 11g were marked amber, and below 2g marked green.

“[After introduction of the labelling system], soft drink companies reduced sugar in their products by 10% [and] we think we can replicate that success here as well,”​ added Senaratne.

Exceptions to the rule

However, the Ministry has listed out a number of food products that are exceptions to this rule.

These include any primary agricultural products (including cereals, vegetables, fruits, oil, salt, sugar, meat, fish and milk), spices and flavourings sold in separate packaging and single ingredient products such as packaged/bottled drinking water, tea and coffee.

Medically prescribed or recommended foods will also be exempted, as well as infant milk formulae and foods packaged in bulk (as long as retail packs inside the bulk packaging comply).

Swift progress

In terms of progress for this labelling, Sri Lanka appears to be ahead of neighbouring India, where the draft regulations for this are just about to be released for public consultation ‘soon’​. 

An expert panel was set up​ last August to review these proposed new food labelling rules, including plans for red labels to be added to products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS).

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