PAHO Says Regional Trade Ministers Have Been Blocking Attempts to Encourage Proper Food Labeling

ROSEAU, Dominica – The director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO),  Dr Carissa Etienne, Tuesday said Caribbean Community (CARICOM) trade ministers have been blocking attempts to encourage food labeling in the region, renewing a call for taxes on sugar and sweetened beverages.

DOCtorCARPAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne addressing sub-regional managers meeting in Dominica (CMC Photo)Addressing the PAHO sub regional managers meeting here, the Dominican-born senior PAHO official urged Trade Minister, Ian Douglas, to use his influence to help create the enabling environment “so people can live healthy lives.

“I know that we have taxes on sweetened beverages, we need to increase those. We need to increase those so the healthier choice becomes the easier choice. So they will not spend money to buy some of those but they will go to our juices and to put the taxation on sugar as well,” Etienne told the conference.

She said, however, one of the “biggest requests” PAHO needed to make of the Dominica Trade Minister “is how does CARICOM and the ministers of trade, how do they help us to ensure food labeling in the Caribbean.

“When somebody goes to a supermarket to pick up something, they need to know, wow, this is high in fats, this is high in sugar, this is high in salt, so it becomes easier for them to make the choice.

“We have been having a battle with food labeling and with CARICOM and ministers of trade in this region where they have been blocking us. They have been blocking us although we have the support of CARPHA (Caribbean Public Health Agency), the healthy coalition and civil society in this region.

“They have been blocking us and I think it is short sightedness, because unless we go to the food labeling, people will continue to buy food that is not just healthy, but is causing illness,” Etienne said.

She said the economic cost of dealing with those illnesses is much higher “than the few taxes that they will pick up from those products”:

She said she was making this a personal plea to Douglas, urging him “to bring leadership to bear on the frontal package food labeling issue in the Caribbean.