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Major food, beverage companies wary of diabetes-linked “sugar tax”- Banks DIH Chairman

Chairman of Banks DIH, Clifford Reis addressing his company’s 2018 Annual General on Saturday, January 28, 2018.

Banks DIH Saturday night said it was among major food and beverage companies taking steps to reduce the risks its products might pose to diabetes or risk facing a “sugar tax”, according to Chairman of the company, Clifford Reis.

He told shareholders at Thirst Park that Banks DIH would continue working with all international companies with which it has partnerships to highlight the impact of sugar use and areas of concern.

“There are strong discussions going on with all beverage companies in relation to the use of sugar because of the diabetic area and there are certain principles that we have taken,” he told his company’s Annual General Meeting.

Latest statistics show that in Guyana’s country profile at the World Health Organisation, there were 49,800 cases in 2016 and that most deaths occurred in the 30 to 69 age range. 160 men and 180 succumbed to diabetes in Guyana two years ago.

Among the steps that have already been taken is no selling of soft drinks to schools. Discussions on the consumption of sweetened beverages by children, he said, was one of the major issues being discusses with its international partners such as Coca-Cola.

“At our last international meeting that we had with Coca-Cola, it was discussed strongly that we have to adhere to certain rules where children are concerned, otherwise you may end up having taxes which is known in the world now as ‘sugar tax’,” he said. At the same time, he said a number of countries have been refusing to implement a sugar tax.

Reis said Banks DIH has to ensure that sugar does not become a hot-button topic as it relates to diabetes. He added that the new Coca-Cola labels state the levels of sugar content. “It’s going to be a continuous campaign; it’s not going to end in one stroke of a pen or one discussion or one conference. It will continue forever pertaining to the education programmes about where sugar is concerned,” said Reis. Banks DIH’s labels, he added, includes the grammes per sugar of serving.

Diabetes is also said to be a major health problem in Trinidad and Tobago.