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Mar 2, 2023

Front of Package Labelling to Help Reduce N.C.D.’s and Obesity

Today, Belize observed World Obesity Day which is celebrated annually on March fourth. This year’s theme is “Changing Perspectives: Let’s Talk About Obesity.” And so, the day is being used to sensitize persons to the dangers of obesity and encourage practical solutions to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Obesity presents many health risks and is often time reflective of what we consume. It falls in line with a consultation that was held on Wednesday at the Biltmore Plaza where various stakeholders from private and public sector were engaged. The front of package nutritional labelling stakeholder consultation is looking at a regional scheme that seeks to address health concerns for non-communicable diseases and obesity. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Worldwide, data shows that chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney failure and heart disease, are becoming not only more prevalent, but presenting themselves in a younger age group – thirty-five to forty-five years of age. There is need for action to change what we consume on a daily basis, but those steps have to be made across the food supply chain and will require public and private sector involvement.


Jorge Polanco

Dr. Jorge Polanco, Director of Health Services, Ministry of Health & Wellness

“We are having an increasing trend of young people and I am referring to people between thirty-five and forty-five (which is young) already being classified to some degree of disability at the age of forty-five. You are disabled simply because of some complication of a cardiovascular disease. Those things should not be happening, especially if we as leaders know that one fundamental determinant is what we eat.”


As it currently stands, Belize imports over seventy percent of the food we consume – a walk down a grocery store aisle would show that almost all goods are not locally made. The nutritional labels on these products are ignored by most shoppers – they are small and are often times located either to the side or back of the product where a recipe would sometimes be.  And so, the idea is that by improving consumer knowledge to make informed choices in the consumption of daily pre-packaged foods, it will help to address non-communicable diseases and obesity amongst the citizenry.


Dr. Jorge Polanco

“When you look at innocent children eating many foods that are extremely unhealthy, you cannot really blame them as children, who needs to be blamed are the parents, those who are in leadership who know better and should be guiding the population as to what is healthy food. There has to be a very significant level of awareness by the public in general, the consumers and of course the importers.”


Samantha Banner

Samantha Banner, Acting Director, Belize Bureau of Standards

“It’s basically to be upfront in a consumer’s face – hey, this product you are about to consume is high in fat, high in sodium and so basically it is a warning for you, that the product you are consuming may not be as healthy. And so you can make that conscious decision whether you want to consume that product or not.”


The Ministry of Health and Wellness in partnership with the Belize Bureau of Standards has been holding consultations with the private sector to sensitize key stakeholders on a proposed CARICOM regional Front of Package Nutritional Labelling scheme in an effort to establish Belize’s national position on it.


Samantha Banner

“It’s primarily on food products because the front and package warning label, like you’ve mentioned, is already on a lot of products. So it is an octagonal shape system where it identifies high fat, high sodium so that consumers can be conscious of these from a health perspective. And so therefore, it is for us to make a decision whether that octagonal system or the red light green light system that is being proposed by other entities within the Caribbean is the best system.”


Dr. Jorge Polanco

“The participation this morning, we had a very good cross-section of the stakeholders; we had the private sector in full force, which is good and that’s exactly what we want because they need to be part of the discussions. They are the importers, the general public are the consumers and we as public officers should be the regulators as to what is the quality of food, as to what should be the labelling standards of the food that we eat.”


To assist Belize with determining its national position, the result of a CARICOM Private Sector Organization Impact Assessment Study was presented to the stakeholders. But there are serious implications to be realised through this proposal, including an increase in price for product, and so those in the private sector, including manufacturers and producers of packaged products, are critical to the process.


Samantha Banner

“Our private sector was concerned with respect to cost because it means you have to place this new labelling on your existing product labels and of course there is a cost associated with that. So our private sector was concerned about the cost implications of it and of course that normally means that the consumer pays a higher price in the end. This information from today’s session goes to a national mirror committee. The mirror committee is made up of various stakeholders – health, agriculture, trade, private sector entities – and they will deliberate on the feedback received today and then they will formulate a national position.”


Belize’s national position has to be submitted by mid-March of this year, after which the Council for Trade and Economic Development will make a decision.  Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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