(BROOKLYN, New York): – Jamaica’s war on sugar will not only target the sale of sugary drinks in all early-childhood, primary-level and secondary-level institutions in the country, but by vendors outside schools and companies involved in providing beverages for those schools.
The Jamaica Parliament has approved a set of guidelines and protocols which will not only help to improve the dietary intake of children but also set the stage to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which account for 78 per cent of Jamaicans who die each year.
According to the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey, 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.
Minister 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 emphasized.
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 infancy to 18 years. They 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 grammes (of sugar)/100 millilitres (ml), effective January 1, 2019; maximum five grammes /100 ml, effective January 1, 2020; maximum four grammes /100 ml, effective January 1, 2021; and maximum 2.5 grammes /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,” Minister Tufton said.
He added 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.
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 finalized by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information,” he said.