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Search form Search Main menu Home News Business Sports Columns Contact Us E-Paper Sir Trevor Hassell (right), President of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) and Maisha Hutton, HCC Executive Director

Search form Search Main menu Home News Business Sports Columns Contact Us E-Paper Sir Trevor Hassell (right), President of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) and Maisha Hutton, HCC Executive Director.

Act quickly! Thu, 05/06/2021 – 5:00am Time to implement healthy food policies Leading nutrition researchers have co-authored an article that highlights the role that ultra-processed food and beverage consumption has had on nutrition-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like obesity and diabetes.

In the article, the researchers call on governments to act quickly to implement effective healthy food policies, specifically recommending fiscal policies such as taxation, marketing restrictions, healthy school food policies and front of package warning labels. The paper, which was published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology in April 2021, provides evidence that healthy food policies are effective in reducing consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPF).

Sir Trevor Hassell, President of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC), welcomed the paper which lends support to regional calls for front of package warning labels (FOPWL) by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO); the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA); and the HCC,  and further supports a series of CARICOM Heads of Government mandates endorsing FOPWL.

“In the Caribbean, 78% of all deaths and 76% of premature deaths (30-69) are attributable to NCDs. In addition, alarmingly, 1 in 3 Caribbean children is either overweight or obese which puts them at great risk of developing NCD related complications. COVID-19 has laid bare structural inequities in health and in the NCD response, reinforcing the urgency of CARICOM member states to adopt a transformative new vision for people-centred, human rights and equity driven prevention agenda for chronic diseases, which prioritises the implementation of policies such as FOPWL,” remarked Sir Trevor Hassell in a press release issued to The Barbados Advocate.

Caribbean people need more than speeches with familiar statistics and calls for us to change our behaviours in environments where the healthy choice is often the most difficult choice. Our unhealthy food environments simply must change. Urgent government action is needed now to implement mandatory and effective healthy food policies to reduce the rising obesity and NCD rates in the Caribbean. FOPWL has been successfully implemented in other countries and we applaud these experts for emphasising the need for governments to act now,” Maisha Hutton, Executive Director of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition added.

To date, several healthy food policies like taxes and front of package labelling have been implemented successfully, including multi-faceted policies across Latin America. In the Caribbean, a handful of countries have introduced taxes on sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) and bans on the sale of SSBs in school settings. Greater action is needed now, however, to effectively address the high rates of obesity and NCDs, by reducing the consumption of ultra-processed foods defined as multi-ingredient, industrially formulated mixtures containing little, if any, intact foods.

Thus it has been noted that Caribbean countries urgently need to scale up the implementation of healthy food policies including mandatory front-of-package warning labelling (FOPWL). In the article, researchers stress that front-of-package warning labels have helped consumers to more easily identify SSBs and ultra-processed foods and discourage their consumption. Research has also shown that using an octagonal warning label, compared to other types of front of package labelling, has significantly decreased UPF consumption rates while increasing awareness.

CARICOM Member states are now voting on whether to adopt the Final Draft CARICOM Regional Standard for Specification for labelling of pre-packaged foods (FDCRS 5:2010) which incorporates front-of-package warning label specifications and the PAHO nutrient profile model. The evidence highlighted in this paper shows the considerable effectiveness of this policy in decreasing consumer consumption. FOPWL not only decreases consumption but also empowers consumers, especially the most vulnerable, to make healthier, more knowledgeable choices,” the release by the HCC added.