Alliance to fight Sugar-sweetened Beverages and Marketing of Unhealthy Food

28/05/2015 11:50

Say no to sugar-sweetened beverages and yes to Regulation on the marketing of unhealthy food to children - this was the unanimous call made from all stakeholders which were part of the workshop on marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children in Suva.

And, a national alliance is expected to be formed soon to tackle this pressing issue, which continues to cost Fiji loss of not just young lives but expertise, talent and money through rising NCDs.

Teachers/educators, faith based groups, community workers and members of the public, who attended the workshop have agreed on the urgency of tackling the issue of increased marketing of such productsto children for the benefit of the young generation.

Diabetes Fiji in collaboration with Consumer Council of Fiji and National Food and Nutrition Center, the three key players who organized today's workshop in association with the Ministry ofHealth, Fiji Dental Association, and Pacific Research Centre for the Prevention of Obesity and Non-Communicable Diseases (C-POND) and other representatives from Civil Society organizaiions, youthgroups and religious bodies - discussed at length the dangers of the sugar-sweetened beverages and its harmful impact on the health of the children and the nation as a whole.

It was quiet a discovery for many participants to find out that the rate of consumption of sugars weetened beverages have doubled in the country over the last decade or so (1997-2007) and the intake of these is the highest amongst adolescents.

It was also highlighted that currently there are 138 million people in the Western Pacific, of which Fiji is a part of live with Diabetes and in the next 20 years this is expected to increase to 2Ol million people dying of diabetes. In other words one in two people will have diabetes.

Such alarming facts and figures led the teachers and interfaith groups present at the workshop- coming out strongly to support the Diabetes Fiji and other affiliates in tackling the issue.

Some of the participants raised concern on SSB manufacturers and junk food manufacturers highly promoting their products by sponsoring major school toumaments where children are directly exposed to their products through such means.

Ministry of Health believes these are some of the key issues which need to be looked into and once theirdraft regulations on 'The Advertising and Promotion of Unhealthy Foods and Alcoholic Beverages to Children- 2014" is passed then they will be able to beffer tackle these problems.

Also, Diabetes Fiji Chairman, Dr Wahid Khan says once the regulation is passed it will put a control onthe promotion of unhealthy food and beverages to children and affect some of the sponsbred events that children are involved in.

Consumer Council would like to see healthy choices is more afilrdable to consumers.

The participants- in particular teachers were thankful to the organizers for highlighting the deadly consequences of SSBs and unhealthy foods.

Consumers will be getting to see more of these types of workshops in the near future as more and moreawareness is needed by the civil society. Also, plans will be drawn up as to how the issue of unhealthylifestyle will be handled.

(This is a joint communique from Dr. Wahid Khan - Chair, Diabetes Fiji; Ms Premila Kumar - CEO, Consumer Council of Fiji and Ms. Ateca Kama - Manager, National Food & Nutrition Centre)