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Shaw urges beverage manufacturers to cut sugar content

Friday, January 12, 2018

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Minister of Finance and the Public Service Audley Shaw is appealing to beverage manufacturers to lower the sugar content in their products or else the Government will be forced to take action.

Shaw said they can either respond voluntarily “or we as a Government can respond to the needs of the country through appropriate policy prescriptions.”

“There has to be a willingness on the part of the producers of beverages to lead the way, set the examples. Don't wait for the tax act to force you to do it. They need to start reducing the sugar contents even before fiscal measures are contemplated,” he added.

Shaw was addressing a scientific symposium on fiscal measures to prevent obesity/non-communicable diseases (NCDs) organised by the University of Technology (UTech) yesterday at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston.

He said that the Government is concerned about the sugar content of products being marketed to children.

He noted that the World Health Organisation has recommended that countries implement guidelines as it relates to the production of food and beverages in order to reduce the amount of sugar, and imposing taxes to encourage manufacturers to take the appropriate actions.

The minister pointed out that policy measures already being implemented by countries across the region are reducing the amount of sweet beverages provided to schoolchildren and, ultimately, having a positive impact on the social and economic fabric of such societies.

Shaw said that although several programmes have been initiated to reduce NCDs, a more aggressive stance is needed to get more partners to join the fight in reducing the lifestyle-related diseases. He argued that with Jamaica spending US$170 million annually on chronic diseases, the country must act so that more funds can be available for infrastructure improvement to health facilities and the upgrading of healthcare services.

Urging action from beverage manufacturers, Shaw noted that they are armed with research about the “impact of your product on your consumers. We want you to be more responsible in what you include in these products.”

He also urged consumers to “put themselves in informed positions to make healthy choices, because it is your health that is impacted.”