CARICOM Member States are once again voting on the adoption of the Final Draft CARICOM Regional Standard for labelling pre-packaged foods (FDCRS 5:2010). This Standard includes octagonal warning labels on the front of packaged products to help individuals quickly, easily and correctly identify foods high in sugars, sodium or fats quickly. This evidence-based strategy is known to support consumers in making healthier choices, aiming to combat non-communicable diseases, overweight, and obesity.
In a collaborative effort, the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC), comprising local civil society organisations and allies, orchestrated a regional Call to Action on Saturday, September 16th, at 11:00 AM AST/10:00 AM JA time across several CARICOM territories, including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, The Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Civil Society Organisations in St. Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago supported the effort virtually.
The event highlighted regional civil society organisation support for the High In octagonal warning labels across the Caribbean and garnered the public’s perspectives on the implementation of High In front of package nutrition warning labelling across the Caribbean. This call to action served as a reminder to CARICOM leaders that they have committed to fast-tracking policies to address obesity in children and more broadly, tackling unhealthy food environments and NCDs.
After its successful adoption in Chile, octagonal Front of Package Warning Labelling (FOPWL) has been subsequently introduced in Peru (2019), Mexico (2020), and Uruguay (2020). Chile saw decreases in household volume of high-sweetened beverages and general products with ‘high-in’ labels. In Mexico, octagonal warning labels are projected to reduce caloric intake by 14.7% over five years, potentially saving the country an estimated US$1.8 billion in obesity-related costs. It’s important to note that FOPWL does not harm trade; any short-term costs are outweighed by long-term health benefits and healthcare savings. Studies conducted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness in Jamaica, PAHO and other partners have shown that the octagonal High In warning label system effectively aids consumers in identifying products with excessive critical nutrients, which, when consumed excessively, raise the risk of overweight, obesity, and NCDs. Recent research by the University of the West Indies and PAHO, the first of its kind in the Caribbean, also underscores the substantial health and economic impact of octagonal warning labels by revealing that these labels could prevent 16% of NCD-related deaths in Barbados, potentially saving USD 732.8 million.
The implementation of this labelling system aligns with CARICOM mandates, including the 2007 Port of Spain Declaration, the Communiqués of the 37th and 39th Conference of Heads of State and Government, the CARPHA 6-point policy package addressing obesity, and the PAHO Plan of Action for Obesity Prevention in Children and Adolescents. If the Standard is approved and endorsed, the Caribbean will join a growing number of countries that use the octagonal warning label regulations to combat obesity and NCDs, and ultimately protect the rights of their citizens to know what is in their food.
 Predicting obesity reduction after implementing warning labels in Mexico: A modeling study: https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003221
[ Superior Efficacy of Front-of-Package Warning Labels in Jamaica: https://iris.paho.org/handle/10665.2/53328
[ White-Barrow V, Gomes FS, Eyre S, et alEffects of front-of-package nutrition labelling systems on understanding and purchase intention in Jamaica: results from a multiarm randomised controlled trialBMJ Open 2023;13:e065620. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-065620
 Front-of-package warning labels save lives and resources: results from a modeling study in Barbados: https://iris.paho.org/handle/10665.2/57989