A medical practitioner with approximately two decades of experience is calling on Barbadians to take responsibility for the amount of sugar they ingest, especially through soft drinks.
Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo, the current Minister of Labour, said she was worried that Barbadians continued to ignore persistent warnings to reduce their sugar intake.
Byer-Suckoo’s comments came amid fresh concerns raised recently by the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) that soft drinks and some juices manufactured here carried alarmingly high levels of refined sugar, which present a clear and present danger.
As a result HCC President Professor Sir Trevor Hassell called on soft drink manufacturers and those who produce sugar-sweetened beverages to review the sugar content in their products as a priority.
However, beverage manufacturer Banks Holdings Limited told Barbados TODAY Barbadians preferred the sweeter drinks.
Additionally, a ten per cent tax imposed by Government in 2015 on sweetened drinks, appeared not to have had the desired effect of deterring Barbadians.
“Persons need to take individual responsibility. We say Government should [do this], we say the manufacturer should do this, we say the vendors should do this, but we have to take individual responsibility as well. And I think when we start to take that responsibility and reduce our sugar intake, especially in things like soft drinks, then we would start to see a difference,” Byer-Suckoo stressed.
The medical practitioner was particularly concerned about children, many of whom consume multiple bottles of soda a day.
“There are little kids who have a soft drink on mornings before school starts, they have a soft drink at break, they probably have a soft drink at lunch and then there is a soft drink again at the end of the day. So they can sometimes be having four soft drinks in a day and the amount of sugar way exceeds any sensible quota of sugar that anybody should have.”
Byer-Suckoo also called on Barbadians to change their eating habits and engage in more movement, pointing out that the country continued to grapple with a range of non-communicable diseases.
“Of course we know the challenges that we have with diabetes. We know the challenges that we have with obesity and overweight. So we have to look at how we eat and we have to look at lifestyle and things such as sugar,” she said.
Byer-Suckoo agreed there was need for more education on the topic, and encouraged Barbadians to read labels, although she said most would likely be unable to understand the measurements and therefore would have no idea how much sugar they were ingesting.