Makers of packaged food and drink products may be required to have front-of-package nutrition labels by year end, Barbados TODAY has learned.
But manufacturers are said to be concerned that having to revamp their labels could come at a major cost with business still slow in a tight economy.
A front-of-package nutrition label indicates basic nutrition information on the food or drink product, such as the level of sugar, salt (sodium) and fat – information that health officials believe can help address the high incidences of non-communicable diseases.
Traditionally, the nutritional panel is at the back of the package, and authorities have been concerned that consumers were not bothering to turn the products to read it.
While some countries have mandatory front-of-package nutrition labelling on some or all pre-packaged food, others have voluntary nutrition labelling.
It was not immediately clear if the new label that will be required by the Barbados National Standards Institute (BNSI) would be mandatory or voluntary.
Manufacturers and other industry players were given a hint at the change last year, but manufacturers are yet to get details, Barbados TODAY was told.
Neither the Ministry of Commerce nor the BNSI has yet indicated a timeframe for the change.
Several calls to Minister of Commerce Dwight Sutherland have gone unanswered.
The labelling requirement was a proposal made some years ago for all Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states, and would mean a revision of the 2010 CARICOM Regional Standard for specification for labelling of pre-packaged foods.
The idea was subsequently put on the agenda of the bloc’s Heads of Government meeting back in 2018.
And in February last year, the BNSI disclosed that it had carried out a national consultation to get feedback from consumers on the planned move.
Barbados TODAY understands that this development will be on the agenda for the Barbados Manufacturers Association’s executive meeting next week.
President of the BMA Robert Noel confirmed the development, but was hesitant to say more.
He told Barbados TODAY: “BNSI has gone ahead with the change what they are calling the front of packaging labelling, and all of that is an additional cost to the manufacturers.”
But Noel, the Chief Operating Officer of snack food-maker Good Time Snacks, said manufacturers were still awaiting details including when exactly it would be enforced.
When pressed on the issue, Noel said he would expect consultation to take place before any concrete decision was made as to when it would become enforceable.
“They are trying to set a date as to when it will be but [I was informed that it is] before the end of the year,” he said.
Depending on the type of commodity and size of the company, some manufacturers would normally order up to a year’s supply of labels or as little as six months’.
The new labelling would require them to make changes to the formatting of their labels, and it is understood that manufacturers would want to get rid of the stock they already ordered.
Last July, Sutherland had announced that his ministry would be upgrading the BNSI in an effort to bring local products and services more in line with international standards.
A part of that upgrade would include an upgrade of the BNSI’s lab and the installation of a new board that would be charged with updating many of the by-laws of the agency.
Sutherland declared then: “We will restructure BNSI and after that, we will put in place a national quality policy, which will govern the quality infrastructure on which we will build our products and services.”