By the end of this month, officials are expected to decide on long-awaited standards for front nutrition labels on locally and regionally manufactured food and drink products.
Deryck Omar, Chief Executive Officer of the CARICOM Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), said the time was quickly approaching for the organisation to receive the draft document from the technical team.
However, he said a final decision would come only after careful review.
“At the end of October, the final comments are supposed to come back in for the regional project team of experts to take a look at, and depending upon the nature of comments, the regional project team will then determine what is the next step,” he said.
“Either they will send out another draft for consensus building, or if they feel that there is a degree of consensus they might go and ask for national voting to be a little more decisive where people stand, so that the areas of divergence become more transparent, to then move to the next step of closing those areas of divergence,” Omar explained.
A front of package nutrition label indicates basic nutrition information on a food or drink product, such as the levels of sugar, sodium and fat.
The front of package label proposal was made several years ago, which led to a revision of the 2010 CARICOM Regional Standard for Specification for labelling of pre-packaged foods.
A draft policy was developed with the input of CARICOM member states, after the matter was placed on the agenda of the Heads of Government meeting in 2018. Once a final draft is submitted, it will become a document of CROSQ.
However, Omar said for now it was a matter of wait and see.
He was responding to a question from Barbados TODAY during a virtual media sensitisation session on the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) technical barriers to trade programme, held on Tuesday.
He pointed out that even as the standards were being developed, there was already evidence of improvements in the labelling of items in Barbados and other food and drink manufacturers in the region, as well as greater education among individuals on how to read nutrition information on items.
“In the last two years of development of the standard, the number of people who have become aware of how to buy better in groceries and how to eat better and those kinds of things, it has really brought a new consciousness,” the CROSQ chief executive said.
“It has also made the private sector more aware of the importance of educating people on the benefits of their products and how to mitigate any disadvantages. So, it’s really a growing consciousness and a lot has been happening since the standard has been in development…. We have a number of very good products in the region that actually meet those labelling standards. All those things are coming out,” Omar added.