As the Caribbean region continues to battle with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, CARICOM will be introducing new food labelling standards to help consumers make healthier choices.
Speaking at the first in a series of meetings on the new regulations in Barbados, Chief Technical Officer for Technical Development with the Barbados National Standards Institution (BNSI) Fabian Scott said, “We are updating our current standards which date back to 2004. While many aspects of it are still relevant today, what we now propose to do is to put information regarding salt, sugar, fat and saturated fat content on the front of the package. Presently this information is optional and is usually found on the back of the package, but we find more manufacturers are including it as they seek to enter new markets where such labelling is required”.
Chief Technical Officer at the BNSI Cheryl Lewis said, “When listing nutrition facts, you must declare salt content if it is more than 1.5 grams per 100 grams; sugars if greater than 15 grams per 100; fat if it is greater than 20 grams per hundred grams and saturated fats if greater than 5 grams per 100 grams.”
The meeting was aimed at promoting a new octagonal “high in” label informing consumers as to whether the products were high in these ingredients. A representative from the Ministry of Health said that studies carried out in several countries in the ‘real world’ as well as in simulated situations showed customers preferred the octagon label.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George stated that, “The whole concept behind the labelling is to give consumers information for action. We are not telling them not to buy the food but to make more informed choices, and we hope our food manufacturers and distributors will come on board with this.”
Scott stated that new labelling standard would go a long way in helping the region’s food manufacturers as they sought to sell their products intra-regionally and extra-regionally, and similar meetings were taking place in the other 14 CARICOM member states.
“We have a mix of participants here, such as individual consumers and technical professionals, medical doctors, regulators, and manufacturers. We are soliciting their feedback, and the next step is to take the comments from these meetings and compile them. All the CARICOM countries are in on this and ultimately this will help facilitate trade, in that our producers will be able to access markets without all having to change their labelling standards,” he said. (DH)