Deyalsingh: No moves to regulate fast food

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh during the launch of TT Moves at the Couva Hospital and Multi-Training Facility in 2019. - File photo by Marvin Hamilton
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh during the launch of TT Moves at the Couva Hospital and Multi-Training Facility in 2019. - File photo by Marvin Hamilton

ALTHOUGH calling out fast food brands on Monday for their role in contributing to the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has said there are no plans to regulate the industry or impose taxes to discourage consumption. That call was made by the Diabetes Association of Trinidad and Tobago (DATT).

Deyalsingh told Newsday in a WhatsApp message that while he is grateful for the conversations that followed his statements earlier this week, there is no such plan.

"The focus of the ministry is on public education in making healthy choices for their families, most importantly, children who will bear the brunt of this NCD epidemic in years to come.

"I am so grateful for the public discourse led by all arms of the media. The conversation was insightful and helpful in formulating policy moving forward. There will be no regulations or taxes.

"As I said from May 2023, we want the industry to do well. They provide employment and pay taxes."

Last May, Deyalsingh raised the issue of how fast food is marketed to children during the 76th World Health Organization World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, likening the strategies to those once used to promote cigarettes to children. He later said he did not intend to impose regulations on the industry.

In June, Deyalsingh met with representatives from major fast-food restaurants about providing healthier options on their menus. They were supposed to meet with him again after a month or two of discussions to present ideas. However, there has been no word since on whether that occurred.

Deyalsingh told Newsday he is looking forward to the fast-food industry introducing healthy items to its menus as promised. Having sparked national discourse on fast food and its health implications, he hoped discussions would continue outside public platforms and find their way to maxi taxis, places of worship and around dinner tables so that the right lifestyle choices could be made.

He asked that, under the banner of TT Moves, the public commit to drinking more water, eating more fruit and vegetables and becoming more active.

"Together we can have healthier families."

On Tuesday, the DATT, in a release, called for regulations to ban advertising these products to children, introducing taxes to discourage consumption and better front-label packaging. This call was a reiteration of strategies discussed at the July 2023 Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC), on Accelerating the Removal of Ultra-Processed Products From Caribbean Schools – The Food in Our Schools Matters.

It was also based on alarming trends revealed in a survey of 954 people between 11 and 35 in 2023. Among the findings was that 88.4 per cent of the demographic consumed fast food once a week, with over one-third of the group doing so more than three times in the same period. It also found the majority of respondents were drinking too many soft drinks and not meeting their ideal daily intake of fruit and vegetables.


"Deyalsingh: No moves to regulate fast food"

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