There is an urgent need to protect our public health policy-making processes.
Since the start of consultations around the front-of-package labelling Regional Standard for pre-packaged food products in 2018, the ultra-processed food and beverage industry — supported by the wider private sector industry in the Caribbean — has become an overpowering actor in healthy food policy discussions.
Despite the fact that the Octagonal Warning Label has been proven to be NINE times more effective at helping consumers quickly, correctly and easily identify foods high in sugar, sodium and fats, the industry has strongly opposed it publicly and behind closed doors. They deployed a number of interference tactics (see below) which not only significantly delayed the approval process, but weakened the front-of-package labelling Standard.
The Caribbean, like much of the world, is facing a health crisis fuelled by a rise in unhealthy diets with an excess of ultra-processed food products high in sodium, sugars, saturated fats and other additives. This type of diet is the leading risk factor for obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure and even some cancers; so changing unhealthy food environments is a priority.
CARICOM Ministers of Health, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Pan American Health Organisation/ World Health Organisation PAHO/WHO) have all identified Front-of-Package Warning Labels as a key policy measure which will help consumers make healthier and more informed food choices and assist policymakers to more easily identify products which should be regulated through other measures, such as taxation or bans on the sale and marketing to children in settings like schools.
Given the realities of working in small island developing states where the rules of engagement between public health and the private sector are murky and conflicts of interest are commonplace, policymakers — and to some extent, the public —are increasingly acknowledging industry interference as a major barrier to the development and implementation of effective healthy food policies like Front of Package Warning Labelling like the Octagonal Warning Label.
SEE THE TRUTH: Industry interference and opposition to health policies like the Octagonal Warning Label is therefore delaying the Caribbean’s potential for a healthier food environment, and by extension a healthier population.
Let’s #ActOnFacts and support #OctagonalWarningLabels, and transparent and accountable governance systems.
Launch Date: Monday | 22 JANUARY, 2024
Type: Social Media Campaign
Purpose: To advocate for healthy food policies like the Octagonal Warning Labels, and build support for the implementation of measures to safeguard policymaking processes by highlighting industry interference tactics deployed during the front-of-package labelling decision making process.