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by Mildred Europa Taylor, at 07:35 am, December 06, 2018, News

Jamaica bans sugary drinks in and outside school boundaries

Soft drinks in plastic glasses on a woman's hand.

The Jamaican government’s ban on the sale of sugary drinks to pupils will not only cover primary and high school compounds but companies and groups, including vendors involved in the distribution of beverages to these schools, the country’s Health Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton has said.

As of 2019, schools in Jamaica will cease to serve and sell sugary drinks to pupils as part of the Ministry of Health’s new protocol to control the rising obesity crisis in the country.

The new law is part of the Jamaica Moves campaign launched by the government to promote regular physical activity and healthy eating in order to reduce Obesity-related non-communicable diseases.

“All the concessionaires on the campus, and also the vendors on the outskirts of the gates,” will have to comply with the new stipulation, which takes effect in the new year, said the minister.

Health Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton — Caribbean360

He made this known on Wednesday when he told Parliament that Cabinet had approved the Interim Guidelines for Beverages in Schools report. The report of the five-year plan outlined that:

  • As of January 1, 2019, beverages containing more than six grams of sugar per 100 milli-litres will no longer be allowed at public educational institutions
  • Anything over five grams per 100 milli-litres will be prohibited as of January 1, 2020
  • Anything over four grams per 100 milli-litres, prohibited as of 2020
  • Anything over two and half grams per 100 milli-litres, prohibited as of 2023

According to Jamaica Gleaner, beverages that were recommended to be banned from being sold or served to students zero to 18 years old in and around early childhood, primary and secondary-level educational institutions, include: carbonated drinks (such as regular sodas), fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened waters, coffee and tea beverages above the maximum sugar concentration.

Those that will be permitted include plain water, unsweetened flavoured and infused water, unsweetened juices, unsweetened coconut water, unsweetened milk or milk products, as well as, unsweetened milk substitutes and milk substitute products.

“The approval of these guidelines is an important milestone in what has to be a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder approach to beating NCDs and in the best interest of all Jamaicans, and in particular our children,” Minister Tufton said.

Tufton said the guidelines have been borne out of a collaboration involving the Ministries of Health; Education, Youth and Information; Investment, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries including input from the private and public sectors.

“In the short term (one to five) years, they are to reduce exposure to and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and increase the consumption of water. This is while enabling the implementation of the National School Nutrition Standards being developed by the Ministry of Health, which are in turn to support the implementation of the nutrition-related aspects of the National School Nutrition Policy now being finalized by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information,” he was quoted by news site Caribbean360.

For now, beverages brought from home are not being regulated but there will be vigorous education campaigns to influence change in behaviour, the minister added.

Meanwhile, commenting on the development, Veronica Gaynor, principal of Iris Gelly Primary School, a school in Kingston, Jamaica believes that the initiative should be implemented on a phased basis.

“The children have become more attentive to what they drink, but one of the things is that our children are very poor, so it might not be a tuck shop thing because they buy from the vendors. What they do is buy the drink frozen because it lasts longer.

“Our children cannot afford the unsweetened juices so bag juice will always be an option,” Gaynor was quoted by Jamaica Gleaner.

This June, Jamaica’s Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw said that the government is taking a legislation to parliament to regulate the sugar content in food products nationally.

Jamaica is reported to have a high obesity rate as studies show that obesity in adolescents from 13 to 15 years old has increased by 68 per cent and doubled in boys over the past seven years.

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