KINGSTON, Jamaica: The Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) is wholly committed to supporting measures that effectively address Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) among our people. However, the Association along with the regional Private Sector continue to raise concerns regarding the inclusion of the proposed Front of Package Labelling (FOPL) Model in the Finalised Draft CARICOM
The JMEA supports a holistic approach to the comprehensive policy response to Front of Package Labelling and acknowledges that an appropriate FOPL model can be an important tool for public policy to assist consumers in making healthier food choices. However, the JMEA believes that it is critical that introduction of such measures should be rooted in a model which provides ‘best fit’ for the realities faced by Jamaica and other CARICOM Countries.
The JMEA and the regional Private Sector have registered concerns for the past 2 ½ years regarding the implementation of the High-In Octagon Warning Symbol with PAHO Thresholds. What are the concerns?
- The PAHO Nutrient Profile Model (NPM) will establish the most aggressive threshold for sugar labelling in the world. This will result in almost every product in a grocery aisle having a warning label and be flagged as “unhealthy.” Such overuse of the stop sign symbol would not convey a helpful message to consumers; instead, it would render the information meaningless and would not be expected to improve public health.
- It is highly unlikely that large, imported brands will be willing to create unique labels for Jamaica and with the limited resources to enforce the standard at the Ports, it is quite likely that the playing field will be rendered unlevel for local manufacturers who would be the only ones forced to comply with the new FOPL requirement. This would be another case where locally made products are held to a different standard than imports.
- The proposed standard is not in line with any of the standards of Jamaica’s major trading partners. This will have significant cost impact on exporters who would have to bear the cost of having to create separate labels for exports. In addition, the thresholds in the proposed standard are much more stringent than those of the EU, US or Canada and would make regional products less attractive to consumers in those markets.
- “Added” nutrients are no different from naturally occurring nutrients from a public health perspective. For example, sugar is sugar, regardless of whether the sugar is in a bulk bag, found naturally in juices, added to home-cooked meals, or added to processed foods. To only require FOPL on packaged foods to which certain nutrients have been “added” will feed the misperception to consumers that, for example, cookies or drinks made at home are somehow intrinsically “healthier” than cookies or drinks from the store
The JMEA continues to advocate that the development and implementation of any FOPL scheme in CARICOM must be scientific and evidence based. The JMEA, therefore, endorses the CARICOM Private Sector Organization (CPSO) undertaking a comprehensive Regional Impact Assessment (RIA) on the impact of the proposed FOPL model on health, nutrition, production, trade, and the consumer. This Impact Assessment will also assess five (5) additional FOPL models used by CARICOM’s major trading partners including the US Facts Up Front and the UK Traffic Light.
The JMEA, therefore, implores the Government to await the findings of this Impact Assessment before endorsing a regional Front of Package Labelling (FOPL) standard.
The CPSO study will commence in March 2021.