The introduction of a Front-of-Package Warning Label System (FOPWLS) will have a significant positive impact on the non-communicable disease (NCD) crisis in Barbados, says Minister of Health, Senator The Most Honourable Jerome Walcott.
He made this assertion on Wednesday during the launch of the mass media campaign, The Right to Information – Give Us Warning Labels at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Quoting data from a recent study done by the University of the West Indies in conjunction with the Pan American Health Organisation, Walcott said these warning labels “could potentially reduce NCD-related deaths in Barbados by as much as 16 per cent, which could translate into tremendous reductions in pain and suffering and cost savings as it relates to the treatments of NCDs”.
“This modelling study, Preventable Risk Integrated Model, is the first of its kind in the Caribbean . . . The findings showed that introducing octagonal FOPWLS has the potential to shape helpful consumer choices.
“The researchers highlighted that the average salt, fat and added sugar intake would be decreased both in men and women. Specifically in men, salt intake would be reduced by 34.7 per cent, fat intake by 24.3 per cent and added sugar intake by 13 per cent. In women, salt intake would be reduced by 34.4 per cent, fat intake by 27.4 per cent and added-sugar intake by 16.7 per cent,” he said.
Adding that NCDs were “plaguing our society at an alarming rate” with 2011 showing “stark” statistics, the minister said that back then, Barbados recorded 467 myocardial infarctions – heart attacks – which equated to more than one per day. He added that 50 per cent of those heart attacks were fatal. There were 691 strokes, almost two per day, and about 150 of the people died.
The mass media campaign of the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Barbados Inc. in association with the Barbados Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition aims to build stronger support for the introduction of an octagonal FOPWLS as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) standard and as an effective way to help consumers make healthier food choices. It also highlights the harm of unhealthy foods, particularly ultra-processed (packaged) foods that are high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat or trans-fat.
During the launch, President of the Heart & Stroke Foundation Dwight Moseley said that people were becoming more aware about the negative impacts of the many of the foods they were consuming, which had poor nutritional value. He said it was concerning that 80 per cent of the population was diabetic and 31 per cent of children were obese.
Moseley said food labels would go a long way in helping Barbadians make wiser food choices.
President of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition Sir Trevor Hassell said the time was now to introduce health policies that were people centred, in order to properly address the NCD problem in Barbados. He said 60 per cent of the foods Barbadians consumed were ultra-processed and imported, adding that the labels at the back of food packages were uninterpretable to the average person and oftentimes had no value.
He said this is why front-of-package labelling systems were important, as they were easy to identify and understand.