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Consumption of sugary drinks prohibited in primary and secondary schools

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President of the Saint Lucia Diabetes and Hypertension Association (SLDHA), Dr Kedhma Dorh
President of the Saint Lucia Diabetes and Hypertension Association (SLDHA), Dr Kedhma Dorh

About five years after health authorities planned to regulate the consumption of soft drinks in schools, the cabinet approved an idea to ban the consumption of sugary drinks in all schools on the island.

This week, the Department of Health and Welfare, through the Department of Education and Sustainable Development, in correspondence to parents of students, disclosed that effective January 4, 2023, “sugary drinks” will be banned in all primary and secondary schools. .

According to Ministry staff, in line with Cabinet Conclusion No. 330 of February 20, 2020, the banning of sugary soft drinks in all schools in Saint Lucia has been approved by the Cabinet of Ministers.

The ministry spokesperson further stated that “children will not be allowed to consume sweetened beverages with high sugar content on school premises; the recommended sugar content should be less than one teaspoon per hundred millimeters of liquid.

Acting Director of Education Dawson Ragunanan noted that in 2023, “the ministry will provide guidance on reading labels so parents and guardians can be educated on how to make more beverage choices. healthy”.

In making preparations for this possible decision, Health Ministry officials have indicated that regular soda consumption is linked to diabetes, heart disease, obesity and asthma.

The President of the Saint Lucia Diabetes and Hypertension Association (SLDHA), Dr Kedhma Dorh, welcomes the decision of the Ministry of Health to stop the consumption of sugary drinks on school premises, saying that was a step in the right direction.

“The diabetes movement is not just about eliminating sugars. You need sugars because your body uses sugar for energy. Therefore, eliminating sugars is not the only answer. We also need to look at other things like increasing physical activity…it’s important to start at the school level to make sure there’s an exercise component to the week. For a diabetic, it has to be five days in a row, 30 minutes of cardio every day so we can try to think about how we can fit that into the lives of kids as well,” he said.

“Recognizing that consuming too much energy is part of the problem. I have to say that I hope it doesn’t stop there but continues with a holistic approach to our situation; analyze what exactly is driving the increase in diabetes or uncontrolled diabetes and apply the evidence from this analysis to our population,” he added.

Vice President of the Saint Lucia Diabetes and Hypertension Association (SLDHA), Tedburt Theobalds
Vice President of the Saint Lucia Diabetes and Hypertension Association (SLDHA), Tedburt Theobalds

Association Vice President Tedburt Theobalds also weighed in on the department’s decision to ban sugary drinks on school grounds.

“It is a known fact that high sugar drinks cause several health problems, the main ones being related to unhealthy weight gain and obesity, heart disease, liver and bone problems and diabetes. consumption of these beverages also leads to the growth of bacteria in the mouth that destroy tooth enamel and lead to cavities. SLDHA sees the ban as a welcome first step in curbing the unhealthy drinking habits of our children,” Theobalds said.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare launched a campaign in 2017 “to stop the sale of sodas or soft drinks in schools”.

The ministry says the super-sweetened soft drink is known to have disastrous health effects. Regular consumption of soda is linked to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, asthma and cavities, among other conditions.

While undertaking this initial campaign, Chief Nutritionist Lisa Hunt Mitchell held deliberations with school principals from various districts to discuss how best to reduce soda consumption among young people. The health official said the intention is not to put a dent in the pockets of local manufacturers, but rather to ensure a healthier nation.

“We are aware of the negative impacts of soft drinks, so the Department of Health is engaging school principals so they can provide support in trying to reduce the sale of soft drinks in schools,” Mitchell explained. .

She added: “We want to encourage children to drink more water instead of juice or soft drinks. Sugary drinks are bad for your health in general, but carbonated drinks contain added ingredients such as caffeine, phosphoric acid and colorings that are much worse. These ingredients have very negative health effects.

Mitchell noted that Saint Lucia is not the first country to implement the policy.

“Many countries have actually banned the sale of soft drinks in schools. Barbados has done this and Trinidad recently banned soft drinks and sugary drinks in schools,” she said.

Ella Tomas-John, acting principal of the Plain View Combined School supports the initiative.

“I think this should have been done a long time ago so that we have now reduced the number of behavioral issues we are having,” she said. “It is important to protect the health of our children. There are kids who are obese because they eat all that sugar and don’t exercise. Today, most kids play with their iPads or phones instead of engaging in physical activity. »

The fundamental objective of the Department of Health is to limit the adverse health effects that foods high in sugar can have on future generations.

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