March 18, 2024

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Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of disability, morbidity, and mortality in the Caribbean, where over 70% of all deaths are NCD-related. Unhealthy diets, alongside other modifiable risk factors, are fueling the region’s NCD crisis. Several recommendations at the international and regional levels endorse regulating the nutrition labeling of food and beverages as an essential part of a comprehensive suite of public health policies. Since 2018, the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality, the regional institution responsible for developing and harmonizing regional standards, embarked on the process of revising the CARICOM Regional Standard Specification for the labelling of pre-packaged foods (CRS 5:2010) to include octagonal “high-in” warning labels. The process has been protracted — involving two rounds of voting by CARICOM countries and subjected to inordinate food and beverage industry interference.

This new report seeks to inform the strengthening of public health decision-making in CARICOM by analysing the front-of-package nutrition labelling standardisation programme. First, it identifies the CARICOM organs, institutions, agencies, and committees involved in the standardisation programme, outlines how standards are developed and adopted, and assesses entry points for inordinate industry involvement. It then discusses some normative considerations about the standardisation programme, including those contained in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas Establishing the Caribbean Community and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. Finally, it issues several recommendations to strengthen public health decision-making in CARICOM, including within the standardisation programme.

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