Jamaica News: For the first time, Jamaica will have the capacity to analyse the sugar, salt and fat content of food products.
This follows the upgrading of laboratories of the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) and the Scientific Research Council (SRC), to conduct these tests, at a cost of $20 million, through funding from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada.
The upgraded labs were officially launched during a ceremony at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston on Tuesday (August 27).
Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, said this historically significant initiative will assist the Government in its drive to reduce the high prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which he says is one of the greatest public health threats.
He noted that studies reveal that one in three Jamaicans has hypertension; one in eight is diabetic; and one in two is overweight or obese, and as a consequence, seven of every 10 deaths are linked to this NCD epidemic.
Dr. Tufton stressed that the unhealthy diet of the population is a major factor in the development of obesity, hypertension and diabetes, with the major contributor being the consumption of excess fats, sodium and sugar.
Therefore, the upgrade of the SRC and BSJ labs will provide baseline information on the concentrations of these ingredients in food products, which will enable the Government to establish evidence-based national guidelines, standards and regulations for these ingredients, to ensure that more healthy food options are available for consumption by the public.
Results of laboratory analyses will raise public awareness of the composition of fats, sodium and sugar in commonly consumed foods.
Dr. Tufton noted that through this initiative, “we are now enabling, empowering the consumers to appreciate that information and to use that information to protect the vulnerable, especially our young people in schools”.
In the meantime, the Health Minister said that while the Government still has “to win souls and get buy-in to the cause,” he is encouraged that industry players have begun to come on board with the Ministry’s healthier food consumption campaign, starting with the reformulation of sugary drinks “to get admission into schools”.
“Over the last number of months, we have commissioned or are in the process of commissioning studies to establish baseline arrangements around trans-fats, how much of it is in our society and how much of it is consumed or used. The baseline of sodium is something that we are working on and, we are engaging the experts to give us that information as part of the consumer awareness and the development of sound policy going forward,” Dr. Tufton informed.
The upgrade of the SRC and BSJ laboratories is part of a four-year Can$4 million project, entitled, ‘Improving Household Nutrition Security and Public Health in CARICOM’.
The University of Technology (UTech) facilitated the procurement, installation and training required for the operation of these laboratories. Memoranda of agreement were signed among the SRC, BSJ and UTech to formalise the collaboration.
The overall project is being undertaken in Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines by UTech, the University of the West Indies (UWI), McGill University and Cambridge University.
Source: JIS News