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THE HOYOS FILE: Save our kids from obesity


THE HOYOS FILE: Save our kids  from obesity

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Minister of Health John Boyce last week asked the local food industry to be more proactive in promoting healthier eating, especially among children, by reducing the fat, sugar and salt levels in food and making healthier choices available to Barbadians.

He also accused marketers of less-than-subtle advertising, of which no examples were given in the story, but which I take to mean showing that the guy drinking the sugar-filled carbonated drink always gets the best-looking girl on his way to also getting diabetes.

I am with you, Mr. Boyce. Yes, I also hold the government partly responsible (previous administrations included) for not doing more about this nightmare of health problems we have all helped create, but that doesn’t mean you cannot stand up and call out the private sector or parents, as they are accessories to the crime of obesity which we are all as a country perpetrating against our children.

Boyce, said the Government Information Service, revealed that the rates of obesity and overweight were above 30 per cent, according to a survey of the school-aged population in Barbados.

The survey also noted that more than 70 per cent of students drank at least one carbonated soft drink every day, and undertook almost no physical activity.

I say it’s the government’s fault as well because there is no point trying, as it is doing, to give children more nutritious diets through the School Meals Department and still allowing vendors right outside the school door to sell the sugar-laced drinks and snacks to the kids.

Have you ever seen one of those vendors trays up close? They should all be re-labelled “Heart Attack Shacks”. And we parents let our kids buy from them every day.

In Britain they are trying to do something about it which we could emulate.

A couple of years ago a new food labelling system was launched and is gradually being adopted by more manufacturers and sellers of everyday food and beverage items. Said the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) (this story is from June 2013 when it was being launched): “One of the key steps has been the inclusion of colour coding. Research by the Food Standards Agency has shown that consumers prefer traffic light labelling because it offers key information ‘at a glance’.”

A combination of colour coding and nutritional information is used to show how much fat, salt and sugar – and how many calories – are in each product.

Only 60 per cent of foods will be covered by the system because it will remain voluntary, said the BBC, but at least that’s a start.

It noted that “the introduction of a consistent system has proved problematic partly because of the difficulty of getting industry leaders to agree on the labels and because mandatory regulations requare agreement on a European level.”

So, you see, even though it’s a challenge everywhere, look what can be achieved if more companies get on board.

For example, regular Coke gets a red light, while Coke Zero gets a green light. This has helped the latter’s sales to rise even as the former’s were falling anyway due to general consumer awareness. So it can be good for business too. There is a lot of money in getting people to eat and drink right.

Noteworthy: Life without a mobile

I am letting you know that I am not mourning the demise of my mobile phone, which occurred after I repeatedly dropped the old thing (a four year-old iPhone4) a couple of times, smashing the gorilla glass and allowing water to get in, which it of course did.

If you want to reach me email me at [email protected] For now I am savouring my freedom, like the prisoner who is allowed out of his cell for one hour a day to run and walk in a walled-up space of twenty square feet. I say that because I know that I can’t really do without a mobile phone for too long and so I will willingly go back to being a mobile captive, even if I don’t have to be one.

I mean, I could carry my iPad with me everywhere. Or I could rely on landlines, leaving my wife and office assistant with those “while you were out” message forms of days of yore.

Revenues from the mobile market’s exponential growth has taken both LIME and Digicel to new heights of revenue.

You might think that that success alone would be reward enough for the big companies, but no, my friends, it goes even further. The mobile phone is the Trojan Horse by which the telecoms will gain even greater access to our wallets.

Cable & Wireless (C&W), in its filing with the London Stock Exchange on its proposed acquisition of Columbus Communications, put it this way : “Mobile is the key entry point to consumers . . . increasingly, our customers tell us that they want to stream/cache/download TV content onto their mobile, tablet or laptop devices . . .”

And I still remember calling C&W on my home phone to ask them to place an overseas call for me. And then waiting on them to call back.