By Aabigayle McIntosh
The Antigua and Barbuda Diabetes Association and the Antigua and Barbuda Heart and Stroke Foundation strongly support the urgent call for the introduction of Octagonal “high-in” front-of-package warning labels (FOPWL) to be placed on pre-packaged food and beverage products.
Health experts are of the opinion that the octagonal warning label (OWL) is the best label for the entire region.
Caribbean countries will be voting next week on whether to approve FOPWL. If approved, the octagonal warning label system will be added to food packaging containing high levels of sugars, sodium and fats. These levels will follow the PAHO Nutrient Profile Model.
Ahead of the October 14th vote, both organizations have partnered with the Healthy Caribbean Coalition to raise public awareness about the matter.
Vice President for the Diabetes Association and Nutritionist Charity Dublin explained, “We really are pushing to have buy-in across the region so we can adopt these warning systems. What the system does is make it easier for consumers to choose healthy products,”
“The labels are black and they would say high in fats, high in sugar, high in sodium and it will be at the front of the package. Usually, we would have to turn the item around and read the nutrition facts, the labels are at the front so this system is better,” she added.
Dublin said the groups partnered with each other because they had seen first-hand issues as it relates to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and the changes in nutrition.
“We as consumers, need these in order to help us make healthier choices especially persons who are living with obesity and NCDs such as diabetes and hypertension because they can effectively engage with the public. Whether or not it is approved we will continue advocating for this,” Dublin said.
In 2021, Grenada, Guyana, and Jamaica voted NO on the Final Standard (FDCRS 5), which meant only 66% (6/9) of Caricom countries voted in favour. Some countries were divided on the issue, and some abstained from voting.
The standard was approved by Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Saint Lucia, The Bahamas, and Suriname. At the same time, Haiti, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincen Not achieving a consensus has delayed the adoption process that started in 2018.