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Suzanne Soares-Wynter | We now have the best to know what’s in our meals | Remark

Weight problems and noncommunicable ailments (NCDs) are very critical issues in Jamaica. Greater than half (54%) of all adults and one in three adolescents are chubby or overweight. There are related dangers of kind 2 diabetes, most cancers and coronary heart illness, all of which have a medical, social and monetary affect on folks. The present international pandemic has additional highlighted elevated vulnerability to COVID-19. The Pan American Well being Group (PAHO) says folks with these underlying well being situations have the next danger of great sickness from COVID-19 and usually tend to die from COVID-19.

As we combat weight problems and the excessive danger of noncommunicable ailments, Jamaicans have a proper to know what’s of their meals. Whereas the drivers of the weight problems epidemic are advanced, unhealthy consuming is a identified danger issue and one which we should hurry to deal with. In Jamaica, as in the remainder of the world, our diets are actually dominated by a variety of native and imported prepackaged meals, processed and ultra-processed. Current proof reveals that the big portion of the merchandise in our retail house comprise extreme quantities of important vitamins, particularly sugars, sodium, and unhealthy fat. Ought to we, as customers, proceed to eat blindly, no matter our well being? And at this vital interval of a pandemic? Greater than ever, customers desperately want recommendation on figuring out and selecting more healthy meals and drinks.

Entrance of Package deal Label Warnings (FOPL) are a confirmed technique to teach customers in regards to the hidden risks of food and drinks. Meals labels are often sophisticated, and deceptive labeling and well being claims confuse customers. Nevertheless, FOPL warnings present interpretive labeling data on the entrance of packages, in a simple to grasp and determine show. Jamaican customers want this stage of transparency about the big variety of processed and packaged meals.


Jamaica and different CARICOM international locations are present process a significant overhaul of the area’s meals labeling system. The proposed “cease signal / octagon” FOPL warning image is a sample supported by a robust proof base. The collaboration includes numerous stakeholders, together with authorities, coverage makers, the meals trade, commerce, advocacy, client and well being teams, and academia. At the moment, vitamin labeling is neither necessary nor standardized throughout the area. The prevailing labeling system is archaic, because it doesn’t enable the general public to accurately current the standard of a meals or beverage product. The replace course of is due to this fact lengthy overdue and will definitely play an important position in filling the data and regulatory gaps in our meals panorama.

The useful affect of FOPL warnings on buy intentions and client consciousness is effectively documented within the scientific literature. The phrases “Excessive in…”, “Extreme…” and different warning phrases on labels are gaining reputation world wide, and notably in international locations the place the necessity to take motion to scale back or forestall weight problems is required. has been acknowledged. (They’re already in place in Chile, Israel, Canada, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela, and are into account in Brazil.) Jamaicans deserve the identical safety. There could be no free-for-all strategy to our well being, nor can there be a prioritization of the income or inefficiency of the paperwork over the well-being of the folks. Sturdy public well being insurance policies and schooling are obligatory methods. These at the moment on provide are guided by science, with confirmed effectiveness in defending well being and wellness.


PAHO’s Nutrient Profile Mannequin (NPM) helps international locations set up wholesome thresholds for vital vitamins related to poor well being outcomes. Knowledge from international locations which have adopted related thresholds (e.g. Chile and Peru) have proven that the meals trade has tailored / reformulated their merchandise to scale back these vitamins to keep away from warning labels. This served to:

(1) Enhance the product providing accessible to the general public,

(2) Encourage producers (worldwide and nationwide) to be extra modern of their product choices,

(3) Encourage entrepreneurship, and

(4) Discount within the proportion of merchandise bearing a warning label. Taking these early adaptation measures has certainly put leaders forward of their competitors.

The updating of regional meals labeling requirements is effectively below means. Some native producers and distributors are already reformulating and delivering higher high quality food and drinks choices. For many who don’t reply, a lot of their product is more likely to appeal to warning labels. This could be a sign of the extraordinarily unhealthy food and drinks offered to Jamaicans. Efforts ought to be made to stop this, particularly when poor vitamin and poor well being is confirmed to be linked to COVID-19 mortality.

For readability, the FOPL warning label is an addition and never a spot to requirements in power elsewhere. Warning stickers or labels affixed to relevant merchandise ought to be permitted to accommodate imported merchandise. As well as, it mustn’t incur any extra prices for exporting in comparison with promoting within the home market. A number of different meals rules have been simply applied for imported merchandise previously (together with labels with English translation, manufacturing particulars, and so forth.), and FOPL ought to be no totally different.


As a regional CARICOM customary, we anticipate that FOPL warnings would additionally apply to merchandise made within the area. A number of international locations (UK, EU, Canada) additionally apply NMPs to discourage formulations containing extra vitamins. Jamaica and the Caribbean area are main goal markets and our merchandise are extremely valued and wanted globally. Enforcement of FOPL warnings will encourage extra producers to enhance their product providing and place them at a comparative benefit, forward of their opponents.

It’s promising to see the discussions on the OFOP lastly progressing within the public framework. The World Well being Group has lengthy beneficial FOPL, together with lowering the consumption of sugary drinks, as key coverage motion objects to scale back the burden of weight problems and noncommunicable ailments in our area. . These of us thinking about vitamin and well being welcome these two initiatives.

The front-of-package labeling positions itself as a win-win deal for anybody thinking about Jamaica and Jamaicans. We actually have a proper to know what’s in our meals.

Suzanne Soares-Wynter, PhD, is a Medical Nutritionist on the Caribbean Institute for Well being Analysis, College of the West Indies. Ship your feedback to [email protected]

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