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Discussions begin with manufacturers to reduce sugar in drinks — Tufton

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Minister of Health, Dr Christopher Tufton, says discussions have started with manufacturers who distribute sugary drinks to schools about the steps they will be taking to reduce the sugar content, before the Government implements its new policy on these drinks in January 2019.

Speaking at the release of the 'Are You Drinking Yourself Sick?' post-obesity-prevention campaign survey results, which took place at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston on Monday, Dr Tufton said manufacturers are key stakeholders that the Government wants to see producing juices that are more fruit-based and healthy for the nation's children.

“There are three months to go [before the policy is implemented in January]. In the meantime, we have been having discussions with a number of the critical stakeholders, including manufacturers,” Tufton said.

“I think it's important that the dialogue continue. I think its key for the behavioural change that we seek to include all concerned, because this campaign, this public advocacy, is not just about behavioural change for our children, our teachers, our vendors and our policymakers; it's also about behavioural change for those who supply the goods that we would like to consume,” he added.

Tufton said he is encouraging school-beverage manufacturers to embrace the approach the Ministry of Health has been taking, as the goal is to reduce obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among our nation's children.

“Its good business to say to your consuming public that we have a product that's good for you, and frankly speaking, a drink that contains four times the daily recommended amount of sugar cannot be good for you,” the minister argued.

According to the 'Key Findings in the Obesity Prevention Public Opinion Survey, Jamaica', which were presented at the event, seven out of 10 Jamaicans attributed negative health impact to sugary-drink consumption; approximately eight out of 10 respondents were concerned about the effects of sugary drinks on their children's health, and there was evidence to show that children had easier access to sugary drinks at school, when compared to their homes or other places outside of their homes.

The survey also stated that approximately 54 per cent of respondents agreed that children had most sugary drinks at school; approximately 83 per cent of them strongly supported policies on the provision of healthy food and beverages in schools; approximately 71 per cent of Jamaicans interviewed support the imposition of a tax on sugary drinks; eight out of 10 persons agreed that the tax revenue should be spent on programmes that reduce obesity, especially among children; and 91 per cent of respondents agreed that there should be clear warning labels on the front of food and beverage packages to alert consumers when products are high in sugar, salt or fats.

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