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Dr.Yitades Gebre, PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern
Caribbean Countries.

Call for tax hike on sweet drinks

Barbados can go further in tackling non-communicable diseases by
increasing the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages which children

Dr.Yitades Gebre, PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern
Caribbean Countries, made this suggestion as he delivered remarks
during the virtual Opening Ceremony for the Stakeholders Consultation
for the Development of a School Nutrition Policy for Barbados, hosted
by his office recently.

“Overall, Barbados has been amongst the first Caribbean countries to
introduce a 10 per cent tax on sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs), to
curtail and
reduce the consumption of high sugar. The (review) of these studies
has shown that the increase in taxes has been effective in increasing
the sale of non-SSBs, in the majority of the grocery stores,” Dr.
Gebre pointed out.

“Whilst this is highly commendable, we are encouraging Barbados to go
further. From the studies, we know that when the taxation is to reach
20 per cent, then they will have the maximum benefit in reducing
obesity related to consumption of refined sugars, SSBs included,” he

“There is growing evidence of the importance of (reducing) access to
SSBs, as part of comprehensive efforts to reduce sugar sweetened
beverage consumption; encouraging the consumption of healthier
alternatives; improved accessibility of healthy choices; and then
overall to reduce overweight and obesity. So the more we go with
taxes, the likelihood of the decline in consumption, which is
translated into reducing obesity and overall leading to a healthier
population,” Dr. Gebre stressed.

Chief Medical Officer of Health in the Ministry of Health and
Wellness, Dr. Kenneth George, has meanwhile acknowledged calls for the
complete ban on the sale of sugar sweetened beverages to children in

“We are aware of the calls from civil society to ban the sale and
marketing of sweetened beverages to school-aged children and ensuring
the availability of free drinking water on our school premises. We are
also aware of the calls for policies to ensure that foods marketed to
our children are not high in sugars, fats and salts,” he stated.

He also noted that the Ministry has  developed nutritious and
practical guidelines for healthy foods in schools, and recently the
Heart and Stroke Foundation has introduced a model healthy school
concept and has done significant work in promoting public awareness
about the need to better manage and tackle childhood obesity.

He however stated that personnel at the Ministry of Health and
Wellness appreciate that to effectively prevent and manage childhood
obesity requires an ever evolving health system, and key responses
from ministries outside of Health are critical, including those from
Education, Agriculture and Food Security; Youth, Culture and Sports.
Support is also needed from civil society organisations to better
tackle the issue, Dr. George indicated.

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