Muscat – The Ministry of Health (MoH) is in the process of developing standards to limit the sugar level in sweetened beverages produced locally.
Represented by the Nutrition Department of the Directorate General of Primary Healthcare in partnership with the World Health Organization Office in Oman, MoH held a meeting on Tuesday to discuss reformulation of sugar-sweetened beverages under an operational plan of the National Nutrition Strategy.
The meeting was described as the ‘starting point’ for the implementation of the sugar reduction programme as well as developing standards for sugar levels in beverages produced locally.
The meeting was followed by a workshop with stakeholders, including manufacturers. ‘The workshop aimed at emphasising the importance of reformulating food products, setting targets for sugar levels in different foods and beverages, and agreeing on these within a specific timeframe.’
The meeting was held under the patronage of H E Dr Mohammed Saif al Hosni, Undersecretary for Health Affairs in MoH, in the presence of Dr Jean Jabbour, WHO representative in Oman.
Dr Jabbour stressed on the significance of the meeting in implementing the National Nutrition Strategy. He commended Oman’s success in reducing salt in bread through voluntary agreements with major bakeries in the country.
According to MoH, reformulation of food products to reduce sugar levels is urgently required to ensure the availability of healthy and sustainable diets for all.
The 2017 Oman National Nutrition Survey revealed that 66.2 per cent of adults are overweight and obese. The number of overweight or obese children under the age of five increased from 2.4 per cent to 4.2 per cent from 2009 and 2017.
The 2020 Annual Health Report found 17 per cent of seventh to tenth grade students overweight or obese.
To address the growing health crisis, food product reformulation in being implemented to reduce sugar content.
Taxes were imposed on soft drinks (50 per cent) and energy drinks (100 per cent) in 2019 to encourage reformulation with reduced sugar content.
Dr Salima al Maamari, director of nutrition in the Nutrition Department, stated that sugar consumption in the community is currently high. “WHO recommends consumption should not exceed six spoons of sugar per day for an adult. This amount of sugar, or close to it, is found in just one can of sweetened drink. Therefore, it is necessary to start reducing the amount of sugar intake gradually with the cooperation of beverage manufacturers.”