Feature
Director of Research at the Consumer Affairs Commission, Racquel White addresses a JIS Think Tank held recently
Photo: Yhomo Hutchinson

Story Highlights

  • The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) has collaborated with the University Of Technology Jamaica (UTech) on an initiative to guide households in selecting healthier food options.
  • The dietary advice that was piloted in 2015 with the CAC and UTech’s College of Health Sciences, is incorporated into the Agency’s existing website enquiry tool.
  • Speaking at a JIS Think Tank recently, Director of Research at the CAC, Racquel White, shared that the partnership emerged from the findings of a study done by Professor of Public Health Nutrition, College of Health Sciences, Dr Fitzroy Henry.

The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) has collaborated with the University Of Technology Jamaica (UTech) on an initiative to guide households in selecting healthier food options.

The dietary advice that was piloted in 2015 with the CAC and UTech’s College of Health Sciences, is incorporated into the Agency’s existing website enquiry tool.

Speaking at a JIS Think Tank recently, Director of Research at the CAC, Racquel White, shared that the partnership emerged from the findings of a study done by Professor of Public Health Nutrition, College of Health Sciences, Dr Fitzroy Henry.

“The research looked at the nutritional value of foods and how consumers should not just focus on the monetary value when purchasing grocery, but ensuring they have a healthy diet by looking at the nutritional content of food. In our collaboration, we had access to that information and we gave them the list of items that we surveyed and they gave us the nutritional codes for those products,” she explained.

From Dr Henry’s research, the Cumulative Rank Score (CRS) for each food item was obtained by adding the ranks assigned to each of the food’s nutrients, based on favourability of the recommended dietary allowance and the suggested population nutrient intake goals, as well as weighted value contributions.

The dietary advice has a colour-code system that presents the ranking of the food items, as well as which are healthy to consume often. Light colour codes (red, amber and green) were assigned for each food item.

“In the colour-code system, red means you should have a sparing amount of it, orange indicates that you should have a moderate amount of it, while the items that you should have in abundance, that is the really healthy products, will be a green shading,” Mrs White informed.

The tool also provides consumers with nutritional information in the products such as the percentage of cholesterol, fat, sodium, iron, potassium and calcium.

The Director of Research noted that the grocery section of the CAC website’s is updated monthly with the product prices for items sold at various outlets within a selected parish and allows consumers to create a grocery basket for the best total price.

“When the consumer puts together their grocery basket that they are comparing, they are not just making a decision on price, they also can make nutritional decisions so they can rearrange the basket to have more balance instead of a red or highly orange basket,” Mrs White explained.

According to Mrs White, the dietary advice tool was developed as a part of the Agency’s response to the push for a healthy lifestyle from the Government.

“The Ministry of Health has been advocating for the reduction of consumption of sugary drinks, and other food types that have excess sugar or salt that are not healthy and should be had in moderation. We are therefore playing our own role in the effort by showing Jamaicans the useful nutritional information as they compile their grocery list,” she added.

In addition to the monthly grocery survey done by the CAC, the Agency also conducts a monthly petrol survey. A survey is done twice a year on banking fees and rates and textbooks. More information can be found at the CAC’s website www.consumeraffairsjamaica.gov.jm.