Regional body writes to Holness about legal action against HFJ
The Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC), a group of close to 100 civil society organisations across the region, has written to Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness declaring that it has serious concerns about the legal action brought against the Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ) by Wisynco Group Limited.
The looming legal battle between Wisynco and the HFJ was triggered by a message
that the non-governmental organisation posted on social media as part of a public education campaign dubbed 'Are You Drinking Yourself Sick?'. The campaign, which began last year with television and social media commercials, is aimed at warning Jamaicans about the harmful health effects of excessive sugar intake.
However, Wisynco contends that one of the messages that the HFJ posted on Instagram last month conveyed false information about its Cranwata beverage. As a consequence, lawyers for the company have filed legal action in the Supreme Court, asking a judge to declare the information contained in the message defamatory and to issue an order barring the HFJ from repeating it. But the HCC, in its letter to Holness, noted that evidence-based research from international bodies such as the World Health Organisation and the Pan American Health Organisation has shown that added sugar in processed food and beverages is linked to obesity, which, in turn, contributes to non-communicable diseases.
"Premature mortality from these diseases in the Caribbean is the highest in our region. As organisations entrusted with protecting the health of Caribbean citizens, especially our children, we say, enough," the coalition said. The HCC also reminded Holness of the pledge by Caribbean leaders that they would seek to protect children and adults alike by implementing measures aimed at improving the food environment. These measures, according to the HCC, include a ban on the advertisement of potentially harmful foods that specifically target children and increasing the tax applied to food with high sugar, salt, and trans-fat content.