Minister of Health, Dr. Christopher Tufton, told the House of Representatives on Tuesday, that the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey says one in three (684,900) Jamaicans 15 years and older has hypertension; one in eight (236,200) has diabetes and one in two (577,300) is overweight.
Dr. Tufton noted that the evidence shows that the link between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and childhood obesity and NCDs in later years is consistent and compelling, requiring an urgent response.
“As a Government, as a country, we have a responsibility to protect our children and the public health of all Jamaicans. It, therefore, cannot be business as usual. For starters, we cannot stand idly by and allow our children to continue to eat and drink themselves sick,” he emphasised.
Dr. Tufton said the guidelines are the result of collaboration involving the Ministries of Health; Education, Youth and Information; and Investment, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries as well as input from the private and public sectors.
“In the short term (one to five) years, they are to reduce exposure to and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and increase the consumption of water. This is while enabling the implementation of the National School Nutrition Standards being developed by the Ministry of Health, which are in turn to support the implementation of the nutrition-related aspects of the National
School Nutrition Policy now being finalised by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information,” he said.
To achieve these objectives, the guidelines place a limit on sweetened beverages above a defined maximum sugar concentration sold and served, in all public educational institutions that serve age groups from 0-18 years.
These, Dr. Tufton said, include early-childhood, primary-level and secondary-level institutions.
The guidelines also place a limit on sweetened beverages above a defined maximum sugar concentration sold and served by all persons, companies or groups involved in the provision of beverages to these institutions, including but not limited to canteen operations, concessionaires, vendors, teachers, school administrators and students.
The guidelines specifically prohibit sugar-sweetened beverages being sold or served in schools if the total sugar concentration exceeds the following: maximum six grams (of sugar)/100 millilitre (ml), effective January 1, 2019; maximum five grams/100 ml, effective January 1, 2020; maximum four grams/100 ml, effective January 1, 2021; and maximum 2.5 grams/100 ml, effective January 1, 2023.
“The approval of these guidelines is an important milestone in what has to be a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder approach to beating NCDs and in the best interest of all Jamaicans, and in particular our children,” the Minister said.
Dr. Tufton pointed out that beverages brought from home are not now being regulated. However, robust education campaigns will be launched to discourage the provision of sugar-sweetened beverages to children.
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