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Manufacturers warned to cut the sugar before the gov't takes action

Published:Thursday | January 11, 2018 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Staff Reporter
Audley Shaw
Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton (left) shares a moment with Professor Stephen Vasciannie, president, University of Technology (UTech), during UTech’s scientific symposium at the Spanish Court Hotel in Kingston, yesterday.

Jamaicans consume more than two billion eight-ounce servings of sugary drinks per year, but Finance Minister Audley Shaw has issued a stern warning to manufacturers of these beverages to lower their sugar content going forward and not wait on the Government to implement taxes.

"I am saying to manufacturers today, you can either respond voluntarily, or we as a Government can respond to the needs of the country through appropriate policy prescriptions," Shaw said yesterday during a scientific symposium aimed at looking at the fiscal measures to prevent obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Jamaica.

"Fair warning, therefore, is being given today. Start the process. Don't wait for the tax act to come," he urged.


The minister noted that the World Health Organization has asked member states to develop guidelines to reduce the sugar content in food and non-alcoholic beverages. The organisation has suggested that countries like Jamaica consider the implementation of taxes and subsidies that would create incentives to encourage behaviours associated with improved health outcomes.

"As a country, we cannot and have no intention of ignoring these recommendations," Shaw said during the symposium which was organised by the University of Technology.

"There has to be a willingness of the producers of beverages to lead the way. Set the example. Don't wait for the tax act to force you to do it," he said.

Jamaicans gulping down sugary drinks

Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton had said that while foods such as buns, ice-cream, cereals and chocolate are frequently consumed in Jamaica, the reality is that 75 per cent of Jamaicans consume more than one sugar sweetened beverage each day.

"Sugary drinks are particularly harmful to the body in liquid form. Sugar in liquid form is absorbed more quickly by the liver than the liver might be able to process," he explained.

Yesterday, Finance Minister Audley Shaw warned beverage manufacturers to lower their sugar content before the Government takes action. He was addressing a scientific symposium organised by the University of Technology, in Kingston.

"In Jamaica, the sale of soft drinks increased by more than 40 per cent each year between 2014 and 2016. We would like to see those companies profit more by higher increased sales of water and low sugar drinks," Tufton said.