The Caricom Private Sector Organization (CPSO) has said that the issue of Front of Package Labelling (FOPL) is being priortised as a strategic part of its agenda as the entity seeks to institute a model best suited to the region.
As incidents of chronic health-related diseases rise, greater demands are being made for manufacturers to provide customers with the appropriate labelling models which gives accurate, standardised and comprehensible details on the contents of food items to be consumed.
“The CPSO is committed to the objectives of FOPL as part of a group of measures impacting consumer behaviour with regard to reducing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) [largely includes diabetes, hypertension and obesity] in our Caribbean Community,” said Dr Patrick Antoine, interim head of the CPSO, in a recent statement on the issue.
The entity, which said it was deeply committed to its private sector mandate under international treaties and conventions, said it is also greatly seeking to pursue “whole of society approaches” and “equity approaches” in all policies, including health, especially in light of rising health challenges as a result of NCDs.
“The CPSO recognises that the private sector is joined in a perpetual social contract with our people, civil society, and governments to address NCDs and the FOPL model that we endorse as an important component of this partnership,” Antoine further said, adding that the entity was also “committed to ensuring that urgent action is being taken to address high incidences of NCDs, which ranks as a leading cause of death and morbidity among Caribbean people.”
The interim head, however, said that while the region has adopted various models of labelling from trading partners including the ‘UK Traffic Light’, ‘US Facts Up Front’ and ‘EU GDA’, there were other models that could be explored. As such, he has called for adequate analysis to be done and the most appropriate model adopted and successfully implemented by member states, as the region looks to policy harmonisation.
The CPSO, which also said that the NCDs challenge was best addressed through an integrated approach, stated that this approach should include components such as public education and awareness, affordable and healthy food choices as well as labelling scheme and arrangement which is most appropriate and effective for Caricom.
“Premised on the ‘whole of society’ approach, the UN-SDGs, and regional harmonisation, the regional private sector’s position is that the appropriate model of FOPL must consider the health, trade, development, and other implications which accompany this decisive shift for the community, having regard to its broad trade, economic and other implications,” Antoine said.
He pointed to recently commissioned impact assessment study now underway, which he said will help to drive well-established norms and scientific evidence around the issue whilst replicating best practices and which he hopes will help the community to institute the most appropriate FOPL model for Caricom.