Trinidad Express:-The Ministry of Health is banning the sale of sugar sweetened drinks at all Government and Government-assisted schools from April 2017.
The move comes amid alarming statistics which point to a childhood obesity epidemic in Trinidad and Tobago.
The sweetened drinks to be banned include soft drinks, juice drinks, flavoured water, sports/energy drinks, tea and coffee and milk-based drinks with added sugars and artificial sweeteners.
The ministry said, from April, only water, 100 per cent sweet juices, low-fat milk and blended vegetable or fruit drinks can be sold at schools.
“The rise in the prevalence of obesity is evident in the 2009 Evaluation of School Meals Options and Survey of Body Mass Indices (BMIs), conducted by the then Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI) which has been integrated into the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
“This evaluation revealed overweight and obesity in school-aged children five to 18 years old increased by 109 per cent, from 11 per cent in 1999 to 23 per cent in 2009,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement yesterday.
Regarding obesity over the same ten-year period, the survey showed there was a 400 per cent increase, from 2.5 per cent to 12.5 per cent.
“This high prevalence of childhood obesity leads to early onset of NCDs (non-communicable diseases) in general and to diabetes and hypertension in particular.
“This data reveals that Trinidad and Tobago has a childhood obesity epidemic that must be arrested immediately,” the ministry said.
Plan of action
The ministry said it is collaborating with the Education Ministry on the issue and discussions have been framed along a course of action which will include primary health care and promotion of breastfeeding and healthy eating; improving school nutrition and physical activity environments; fiscal policies and the regulation of food marketing and labelling.
Apart from the ban on sugar-sweetened drinks, both ministries will be collaborating on the following key measures for the school age population:
• Evaluation of School Food Options and Survey of BMIs
• Finalisation and implementation of the standards for food offered to children in all Government schools inclusive of publication of guidelines/ tool kits and training of school food service providers, canteen and cafeteria operators in meal planning and healthy food preparation methods; and the development of support material.
• Development and piloting of a healthy lifestyle education programme using innovative approach to encourage children to eat healthier foods and to be more physically active, for example use of pedometers to encourage self-monitoring, posters and workbooks.