Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. 11 October 2023. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus and cancers remain the leading causes of mortality, morbidity, and disability in the Caribbean region, with an accompanying significant economic burden. These are closely associated with unhealthy diets, namely those high in fats (total, saturated and trans), sodium and sugars. Consumption of these harmful ingredients is largely driven by widespread availability, affordability, and marketing of pre-packaged or ultra-processed products.
To promote healthier food environments and food security to tackle obesogenic food environments and NCDs, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) instituted the Six Point Policy Package (6-PPP)1. Among the policy options for policy point #1 – Food Labelling, is implementing a regional guideline for standardised, interpretive nutrition labels on all packaged retail grocery foods and beverages, for use in conjunction with nutrition facts panels.
Scientific evidence suggests that octagonal front-of-package nutritional warning labels (FOPWL), indicating if a product is “HIGH IN” fats, sodium and/or sugars, is the best performing system to allow consumers to identify unhealthy food products correctly, quickly, and easily.2 3
The CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) has developed a revised CARICOM Regional Standard for the Labelling of Pre-packaged Foods (FDCRS-5) which contains the octagonal FOPWL as defined by the PAHO Nutrient Profile model. After two rounds of consultations in 2022 and early 2023, CARICOM Member States are once again voting on the adoption of the FDCRS-5 in the region.
On Monday 9 October 2023, CARPHA in partnership with the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), hosted a webinar entitled “Promoting Octagonal Warning Labels in CARICOM”. This was a follow-up to a webinar held on Wednesday 4 October 2023 by HCC, in collaboration with PAHO, CARPHA, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). The aim of this webinar was to address any remaining concerns in relation to the revised CARICOM food labelling standard (FDCRS-5) and specifically the octagonal FOPWL.
Attended by national NCDs, Nutrition and Mental Health focal points in the region, the webinar provided a summary of evidence in support of octagonal warning labels (OWL) in the Caribbean; addressed trade issues associated with OWL in the Caribbean; and promoted the Regional Digital Campaign “Octagonal Warning Labels Help Consumers #ActonFacts”.
Presenters included: Dr Gloria Giraldo – Advisor, Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health, PAHO; Ms. Maisha Hutton – Executive Director, HCC; Ms. Nicole Foster – Law Lecturer and Head, Law and Health Research Unit, Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus; Dr Heather Armstrong – Head, Chronic Disease and Injury Department, CARPHA; and Ms. Abigail Caleb – Senior Technical Officer, Food Security and Nutrition, CARPHA.
The “Octagonal Warning Labels Help Consumers #ActonFacts” campaign can be accessed at: https://www.healthycaribbean.org/octagonal-warning-labels-help-consumers-act-on-facts/ On the website you can view and sign a petition to show your support for OWL in the Caribbean.