The Advocating for Health Project coalition, as part of the World Food Day celebrations, organized a virtual symposium to discuss the menace of sugar-sweetened sugar (SSBs).
Led by the Ghana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (GAND), the symposium was organized to engage various stakeholders to drum home the need to focus on Ghana’s food environment and fiscal policies to address the growing problem of unhealthy food environment and its related factors. The virtual symposium was themed “Driving change in the Ghanaian Food Environment; Time to act!”
Drawing together a team of renowned Researchers and Academics, Civil Society Organizations, Health and Nutrition Professionals, the discussants brought light to issues such as the key challenges to the healthiness of the Ghanaian food environment, the menace sugar-sweetened beverages, the economic and development benefits of addressing the SSBs menace, the need for food-related fiscal policies to address the harms SSBs poses and how nutrition and dietetic professionals, civil society organizations can contribute to this campaign by maximizing advocacy efforts.
Kick-starting the discussions, the President of GAND, Dr. Kingsley Pereko highlighted the need for the campaign and the symposium and called on the need for the country to align with the global health initiatives and policies to addressing our health burdens.
Prof. Francis Zotor, a public health lecturer in the University of Health & Allied Sciences indicated that, about 60% of the world’s arable land is in Africa, yet we fail to feed ourselves. Food insecurity, poverty and disease burdens affect Africa as a continent. He further lamented that Ghana’s food environment is contributing to the triple burden of malnutrition in the country. The moderator, Prof Annan of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology added that, the mere fact that malnutrition persists among us mean there is something wrong with our food environment.
To address all the question directed at the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Mr. Percy Adomako, the Chief Regulatory Officer and Head of the Food Evaluation & Registration Department of the FDA) stated that the FDA ensures that all products that are put on the market are safe but it does not have standard for permissible levels of sugar required in sugar-sweetened products. The laws in determining standards are limited because it has not defined permissible levels for regulating products. With regards to advertisement of unhealthy food products, He said “the law is not clear on the extent to which certain products should not be advertised. We still rely on the general codex guidelines, which gives us the framework to regulate these products. But we must still go further as a country to develop specifics that regulate products of interest to us that have high sugar”.
Dr. Emmanuel Eyifah, Deputy Country director of SEND Ghana lamented on the health harms of SSBs. In her delivery, she indicated that SSB is a key contributor to the health and disease burden of Ghana. She said, “it adds to our health care cost both at the household and country level and therefore, Government needs to find ways of deterring people from the consuming SSBs and this is where SIN tax comes in handy”. The literature is out there that SIN taxes will discourage consumption while generating revenue at the same time. Prof Annan reiterated that the aim of SSB tax is not to destroy businesses but to ensure access to healthier products and positive behavioral actions and ultimately lead to the reformulation of these SSBs.
Generally, the event generated very great discussion on the subject of SSB menace and ways to address it. Participants during the Q & A session largely agreed on taxation SSBs as an option in addressing the rising prevalence in obesity and diet-related NCDs in Ghana.
Find recorded event in the link below