The sugar content in sugary drinks is again in the spotlight, after Twitter account user @Gandhoyy received a summons from PT Esteh Indonesia Makmur, following a tweet allegedly containing insults.
The Twitter account @Gandhoyy protested how sweet one of the beverage products called Chizu Red Velvet, which is likened to containing 3 kilograms of sugar.
In his tweet, he also wrote that the sweetness in the drink could cause diabetes. This viral tweet caused concern in the community regarding the high levels of sugar in the sugary drinks circulating.
Gita Kusnadi, a researcher at the Center for Indonesia Strategic Development Initiative (CISDI) said this issue should be a serious concern for the government. According to him, government intervention is needed to control the consumption of sugary drinks, one of which is the application of excise on packaged sweetened drinks (MBDK).
“We think that the government needs to carry out a stronger comprehensive policy push, in this case the imposition of MBDK excise. Because we have conducted a comprehensive study, if the imposition of MBDK excise is proven effective in reducing the level of consumption of sugary drinks in the community through the price increase mechanism. So if excise duty is imposed, the price will increase and it willdiscourage people to buy,” he told VOA.
Gita explained, this is important to do. Based on data from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), the number of people with diabetes in the country in 2021 will reach 19.5 million people. This figure, he said, is predicted to increase to the level of 28.6 million people in 2045 if the government does not intervene significantly.
“In Thailand, for example, the application of excise duty on MBDK products in two years was able to reduce the level of public consumption of carbonated beverage products (a type of MBDK product) by up to 18 percent,” said Gita
So far, he said, the government through the Ministry of Health has indeed taken promotive actions through Ministry of Health Regulation No. 30 of 2013 concerning the inclusion of nutritional information such as sugar, salt and fat (GGL) levels in every beverage or ready-to-eat/processed food product circulating in the community.
However, apart from there are still many producers who do not comply with these regulations, many people do not know how much the maximum consumption of GGL per day is. The Ministry of Health itself, he said, had recommended a limit to consume sugar as much as 50 grams or the equivalent of four tablespoons per day.
Even so, according to him, promotive efforts and the application of MBDK excise are not enough to control the consumption of sweet drinks in the community. According to him, the two policies must be accompanied by other interventions, including tightening food or drink labeling.
“In some other countries there are, for example, warning labels. So this product contains this amount of sugar, it meets approximately what percentage of sugar intake in a day. Or is there someone who uses it traffic light Red Yellow Green. If it’s green, it means the sugar content is still low. But if it’s red, it means you have to be careful because the sugar content is quite high,” he explained.
Another intervention, said Gita, is to limit the serving of unhealthy food and drink advertisements. According to him, the policies that have been carried out on cigarette products can reduce public interest in consuming unhealthy drinks and foods.
“There are studies that say that children in Indonesia, especially in Yogyakarta, are more often exposed to advertisements for unhealthy food and drinks, one of which is MBDK, compared to other children in Shanghai, Korea and so on. So, the exposure from advertisements for unhealthy food and beverages for MBDK products in Indonesia is still very strong,” he explained.
MBDK Excise Implementation Plan
The Director General of Customs and Excise at the Ministry of Finance, Askolani, said that although the excise policy for MBDK was being prepared, he could not confirm when it would actually be implemented.
“The implementation can be carried out or not, it could be in 2023, of course, we will see from the many factors that will be faced and carried out in the next year,” he told VOA.
As for the factors to be considered, said Askolani, are health, national economic recovery, as well as developments in the global and domestic situation.
“So it must be considered comprehensively,” he added.
Beware of the Impact of Excessive Sugar Consumption
Meanwhile, the Director General of Disease Prevention and Control, Ministry of Health, dr. Maxi Rein Rondonuwu said that excessive sugar consumption, either from food or drink, has a high risk of causing health problems such as high blood sugar, obesity, and diabetes mellitus.
In his press release, Maxi explained, according to the results of the Basic Health Research (Riskesdas), there has been an increase in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases in Indonesia. Based on 2013 data, the prevalence of diabetes was 1.5 per mil, increasing in 2018 to 2 per mil. Likewise, chronic kidney failure increased from 2 per mil to 3.8 per mil, while stroke increased from 7 per mil to 10.9 per mil.
”Of course this will increase the burden of health financing in Indonesia. Moreover, the five leading causes of death in Indonesia are dominated by non-communicable diseases,” he explained.
Ministry of Health data, he said. shows that 28.7 percent of Indonesians consume GGL above the recommended limit.
He explained, as many as 61.27 percent of the population aged three years and over in Indonesia consume sugary drinks more than once per day, and 30.22 percent of people consume sweet drinks 1-6 times per week. Meanwhile, only 8.51 percent of people consume sugary drinks less than three times per month.
Mazi also highlighted the increasing prevalence of overweight or obesity in children, which he said had doubled in the last 10 years. Data from 2015 showed that the prevalence of overweight in children aged 5-19 years rose from 8.6 percent in 2006 to 15.4 percent in 2016.
He claimed that the government had made various efforts and strategies in controlling the consumption of GGL, including in the aspects of regulation, food reformulation, tax/excise determination, studies/research, and education. One of them is through Permenkes No. 30/2013 which is updated with Permenkes No. 63/2015 concerning Inclusion of Information on Sugar, Salt, and Fat Content and Health Messages for Processed Foods and Fast Foods. [gi/ab]