KINGSTON — Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, says that leaders at all levels of the society must act urgently to address the problem of childhood obesity by encouraging healthy eating habits.
“I believe that we need…to stimulate greater and more intense dialogue between the leadership at the level of schools, at the level of the policy makers, but importantly, the large commercial entities that provide food for the school system, to look critically at what we provide to our young people, and adjust what is currently being provided in order to support healthier living and healthier lifestyles,” he stated.
The Minister was addressing the launch of the Consumers International manual for the monitoring of food marketing to children on September 29 at St. George’s College, downtown Kingston. The function was organised by the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC).
The publication, which was developed by the London-based consumer advocacy group, seeks to get Governments moving on obesity. Specifically targeted at health authorities, consumer groups, and civil society organisations in developed and developing countries, the manual is a crucial tool for exposing the scope and depth of junk food marketing. Such promotions are seen by many as a likely contributory factor to the global increase in childhood overweight and obesity.
Minister Tufton said the publication can assist in adjusting how children are encouraged to eat. He noted that leaders have a responsibility to ensure that not only do children acquire skills to make them a better person, but that they practise a lifestyle that is healthy and puts them in a position to reach their true potential.
Stating that healthy eating is a developmental issue, Minister Tufton said it determines a person’s level of productivity at certain stages of their life.
“It is important for development and it is important too in terms of the cost to the country, because ultimately, when you acquire lifestyle diseases that are linked to what you consume overtime, it costs you, and it costs the country. It makes you less productive because if you are chronically ill, you have to avoid going to work or working efficiently,” the Minister pointed out.
The manual recommends actions to improve children’s diets and promote exercise as a means of tackling childhood obesity.
Consumers International says greater attention must be given to the foods and beverages that children are encouraged to consume and calls for action to limit the marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, sugars and salt to children.
By Garfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter