Opinion – CARICOM’s front-of-package labelling conundrum

It has been four years since the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) began discussions on the adoption of a front-of-package labelling system to protect population health in the region. As a public- and global-health lawyer, I can confidently characterise this process as one that has only legitimised and prioritised the interests of private actors to the detriment of society.

For starters, the private sector has recently secured a privileged seat and further strengthened its power with the designation of the Caribbean Private Sector Organisation (CPSO) as an Associate Institution of CARICOM. This has, of course, facilitated corporate capture by giving them high-level policymaker access to lobby and delay the process of the adoption of a front-of-package nutrition labelling system. This additional avenue of participation, which is not available to other interested parties, such as regional civil society organisations, has fostered an unequal power imbalance that challenges the foundations of democracy and is at odds with public health policymaking best practices.

Article – CARICOM’S efforts to tackle unhealthy diets: A cautionary tale for Latin America

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is currently burdened with high rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Unhealthy diets are a major factor driving the region’s increased NCD rates. Since the 1990s, trade agreements have facilitated an influx of ultra-processed foods and sugary beverages into the region. These unhealthy commodities contain excess critical nutrients, which are closely linked to the top three NCDs risk factors in the Americas––high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and obesity. Mandating front-of-package warning labels (FOPWL) as part of a suite of public health interventions is a scientifically proven, human-rights compliant response to promoting healthier diets. FOPWL allows consumers to correctly, and quickly, identify pre-packaged food items that contain excess critical nutrients. Recognizing this, the CARICOM Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) revised its regional standards on the labeling of prepackaged foods to include FOPWL. However, the regional food and beverage industry worked assiduously to undermine CROSQ’s normative effort. In its quest, the industry exploited regional integration mechanisms, co-opted human rights and decolonization narratives to decenter public health and to seize autonomy over the FOPWL process. This paper analyses these strategies to serve as a cautionary tale for Latin America.

CARICOM: Creciente apoyo para implementar el etiquetado de advertencia en los alimentos envasados

Un número significativo de organizaciones regionales, académicos, investigadores y profesionales de la salud han expresado su apoyo a la adopción de CARICOM de un estándar de etiqueta de advertencia en el frente del paquete antes de la fecha límite de votación del 31 de mayo (Fuente).

Hundreds of Caribbean Health Professionals, Regional Organisations Support Front of Package Warning Labels for Packaged Foods