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Health ministry gears up for salt, fats, alcohol fight

Published:Wednesday | April 3, 2019 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer

Health Minister Christopher Tufton has sounded the warning that stricter regulations on foods high in trans and saturated fats and sodium, as well as for tobacco and alcohol products, are on the horizon.

“When we talk about lifestyle issues, I want the sugar people to understand that we might be beating up on them now, but stay tuned. I want the saturated, trans fats people and the sodium people [to know] that we are coming to a town near you,” Tufton said during yesterday’s signing ceremony for a US$100-million Inter-American Development Bank loan to upgrade the public health sector and tackle non-communicable diseases.

“That goes also for the alcohol and tobacco people, and it doesn’t matter if we become public enemy number one.”

Tufton said that while he is not proposing a ban on such foods, consumers should be made aware of the harmful effects of overconsumption. He stated that the ministry has already commissioned a study to understand the true harm posed by trans fats.

“Canada is the latest to ban the use of trans fats. It is seen as a major contributor to certain types of ailments. What I have asked to be done, in collaboration with university technocrats, is a baseline study on trans fats in Jamaica to determine where we go. I have also asked for a terms of reference to be developed for sodium usage, which is basically salts.”

One in every three Jamaicans, Tufton told The Gleaner, is hypertensive, “and sodium is a big cause of that. Hypertension leads to stroke, heart attack and other things. Trans fats cause cholesterol issues, cardiovascular disease, which nearly 6,000 persons die from yearly. Another 18,000 a year die from cancers. Alcohol is another [issue].”

Through the ministry’s food task force, the minister said that a stance will be taken to promote balanced consumption of the ingredients listed.