Wednesday 23 September, 2020

Restriction placed on sugary drinks in and around schools

Effective January 1, 2019, beverages containing more than six grams of sugar per 100 millilitre will no longer be allowed in and around school compounds.

The Minister of Health, Dr Christopher Tufton, announced the Interim Guidelines for Beverages in Schools that were approved by Cabinet on Monday. He was speaking during Tuesday’s sitting of the House of Representatives, where the guidelines were tabled.

As of January 1, 2020, the amount of sugar that will be allowed will be further reduced to a maximum of five grams per 100 millilitre, and a further reduction to a maximum of four grams as of January 1, 2021, according to the approved guidelines.

Tufton told the House that the amount will be reduced to a maximum of 2.5 grams of sugar per 100 milli-litre on January 1, 2023.

“The approval of these guidelines is an important milestone in what has, of necessity, to be a comprehensive multi-stakeholder approach to beating NCDS (non-communicable diseases), and in the best interest of all Jamaicans, and in particular our children,” Tufton said.

The guidelines will affect children zero to 18 years old in early childhood, primary and secondary-level educational institutions.

Tufton told the House that his hope is that parents will follow suit.

Companies and groups involved in the provision of beverages to public schools, including canteen operators, vendors and teachers, will be required to comply with the guidelines.

Health Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton (file photo).

The restrictions on sugar-sweetened beverages will be applicable only during school hours and special school activities.

“These guidelines will not only help to improve the dietary environment for our children, but also set the stage to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases from which some 78 per cent of Jamaicans die each year,” the health minister said.

He pointed out that of the 18,000 to 20,000 Jamaicans who die each year, 78 per cent is linked to NCDS or lifestyle-related diseases. He said NCDS were a growing problem, particularly as it relates to children.

“The evidence shows that the link between sugary drink beverage consumption and childhood obesity and NCDS in later years, is consistent and compelling, and thus requires 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, having been made privy to these facts…

“For starters, we cannot stand idly by and allow our children to continue to eat and drink themselves sick,” Tufton stated.

He acknowledged that while there is support for the guidelines from the private sector, there are concerns about the timing of its implementation. However, he said the ministries of health and education are working together to implement plans to sensitise and train parents and vendors to ensure the long-term sustainability of the initiative.

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