Mon | Oct 22, 2018

Labelling nutri products not necessary - Bureau of Standards knocks suggestions to mark products being sold in schools, noting they are not for the general public

Published:Sunday | April 8, 2018 | 12:00 AMCarlene Davis
Dr. Dwight Ramdon, director of Science and Technology at the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ)
Unlabelled nutri products distributed to over 1,000 schools through a school-feeding programme by the Nutrition Products Limited, which operates under the Ministry of Education.
Maxine Headlam, acting deputy chief education officer at the Ministry of Education.
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While parents wait to see if the nutri products that are being offered through a school-feeding programme by the Nutrition Products Limited (NPL) will indeed get proper labelling, fresh concerns are being raised as to how they were passed by the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), whose policy states that all food items on sale to the public are to be labelled.

In response, director of science and technology at BSJ, Dr Dwight Ramdon, said the policy does not apply to NPL, as the products were not produced for sale to the general public.

"Whereas it's a good thing to do, it's not a need to do in the context of NPL. It is pretty much a confined, closed system - this is the origin, the school is the destination, there are dedicated trucks. As long as they are handling it the way they are supposed to handle food and it is being stored the way it is supposed to be stored, we are good," Ramdon told the Sunday Gleaner.

"The purpose of the label is to identify the product and to identify where it is coming from. Considering that this is a sole source supplier, it wouldn't really make a big difference because if anything goes wrong at the point of the kids, it's only Nutrition Products Limited who is the sole source supplier. They would have to address any issue which presents itself."

Addressing concerns as it relates to allergy and the fact that the children are not able to tell the difference between a pineapple or mango flavour juice in the clear, unmarked bag, unless they drink it, Ramdon said, "Maybe they could colour-code the bags or do something to just distinguish, if you have two items that look the same. I wouldn't be adding value to mandating a detail label. They could look at the bulk bag and put a tag on the bulk bags or they could put the sign of a fruit on the bag."

The nutri products, which include, among other things, bulla and buns, are sold in schools across Jamaica for $2.00.

Acting deputy chief education officer at the Ministry of Education, Maxine Headlam, who spoke with the Sunday Gleaner when the concerns were raised, said the Bureau of Standards works closely with NPL to ensure that the food items are within the standard.

Ramdon said the products are indeed tested but couldn't say how frequently.

 

PRODUCTS ARE TESTED

 

"The food and drink are tested for both quality and food safety parameters. Protein, carbohydrates, fats, sugars, sodium, vitamin C (juices) and for micro-organisms such as coliform, yeast and mould counts," he pointed out.

Last week, The Sunday Gleaner reported that chairman of the National Food Industry Task Force, Professor Fitzroy Henry, said even though it was going to take some time to provide proper labelling for the nutri products, it was being worked on.

However, Ramdon said that while a general tag on the bulk supply could be done, to put a label on each bag juice is going to be difficult for NPL.

"In this context, there is really no big deal. If you mandate them to labelling, it is going to drive up their cost and reduce their ability to provide the actual food," he said.

"We couldn't mandate it, having a full label which says 'produced by, address of so and so, productions dates', all of which is pretty much known information in the school domain."

carlene.davis@gleanerjm.com