Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has issued a call for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to come together to advocate for products being imported from the global market space to have front-of-package labelling.
She said it was important for her call to be answered since Barbados and other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries do not have enough weight on their own to convince global producers to introduce this kind of labelling that would help citizens make better decisions about the foods they consume.
Mottley said the 46 SIDS across 193 countries have the option of collaborating to advocate for better food options to be sent to their shores.
“And [we have to] act together and say to the marketplace that we are not simply small countries to receive that which you do not want, that we are equally deserving of dignity and respect, and that together we are going to make the clarion call for our circumstances to be noticed.
“We spend too much money on the diabetes epidemic, we spend too much money fighting cardiovascular problems, and we spend too much money having now to move patients to dialysis who have not controlled their diabetes properly.
“For us, therefore, what you send to our markets, we are not going to dictate to our people what to do or how to do it, but we want you to make sure that our people are doing it with their eyes wide open,” she said.
The Prime Minister issued the call on Tuesday evening as she delivered the feature address at the opening of the Ministerial Conference on Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health, hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Ministry of Health and Wellness, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Mottley said she hoped that SIDs unite to demand the best from those who manufacture foods globally. She indicated that it was also equally important for these states to provide their citizens with necessary information about how to protect and preserve their personal health.
“And I hope we leave here, therefore, understanding that while many doctors have the capacity to feel greater than most other mortals because you are greater in what you do and understand about the body. But at the end of the day, your efforts alone will still not bring success without partnership and communication and engagement with your citizens.
“We wish you a productive few days, and we hope that above all else that you leave here not only loving Barbados but committed to having that singular voice that would allow the needle to move. Because if the needle doesn’t move, then we have not been successful,” she said.
The Prime Minister told the scores of dignitaries who were representatives of SIDS attending the conference that her administration was committed to the removal of trans fats from products by 2024 in order to ensure that Barbadians have healthier options when they dine at restaurants and fast food outlets.
Noting that there was a public outcry when the Government increased the excise tax on sweetened beverages in 2022 and also some opposition in some quarters when the National School Nutrition Policy was introduced this year, the Prime Minister said: “But the reality is that deep down, everybody knows it is the right thing to do for the right reasons. And we await now from the Ministry of Health the report by September on that lovely but deadly thing called salt.” (AH)