Ban on Sale of Sweet Drinks in Schools as Trinidad & Tobago Faces Childhood Obesity Epidemic

With data revealing that Trinidad and Tobago has a “childhood obesity epidemic that must be arrested immediately”, the sale of sugar-sweetened drinks will be forbidden in the nation’s schools from April.

The ban on soft drinks, juice drinks, flavoured water, sports/energy drinks, tea and coffee and milk-based drinks with added sugars and artificial sweeteners, will be implemented at all government and government-assisted schools.

Only water, 100 per cent sweet juices, low-fat milk and blended vegetable or fruit drinks will be allowed to be sold at schools.

The move comes against the background of increased obesity, the ministry said.

It noted that a 2009 Evaluation of School Meals Options and Survey of Body Mass Indices (BMIs), conducted by the then Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute which has since been integrated into the Caribbean Public Health Agency, revealed that “overweight and obesity in school-aged children five to 18 years old increased by 109 per cent, from 11 per cent in 1999 to 23 per cent in 2009”.

“This high prevalence of childhood obesity leads to early onset of NCDs (non-communicable diseases) in general and to diabetes and hypertension in particular,” the ministry said.

The health and education ministries are collaborating on the issue, discussing action that which will include primary health care and promotion of breastfeeding and healthy eating; improving school nutrition and physical activity environments; fiscal policies and the regulation of food marketing and labelling.

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