Unhealthy diets linked to four top causes of death in SVG – Director of Trade
April 10, 2015
Unhealthy diets linked to four top causes of death in SVG – Director of Trade

“The rise in diet related diseases… represents a national public health crisis… Helping consumers to choose healthier diets requires continuous education and awareness on food production, preparation and consumption.”

This was the advice of director of trade Cuthbert Knights,{{more}} as he made an address at the launch of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ World Health Day initiative on Tuesday, April 7, at the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment.

Knights said that globally, unhealthy diets contribute to approximately 11 million deaths annually, while in SVG, this is linked to four of the top causes of death — obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol.

“Healthy food supplies are increasingly being undermined by the availability, accessibility and affordability of processed food products high in fats, sugars and salts,” he lamented.

Knights pointed out that as well as food health, food safety is of growing concern, and both are imperative for “productive living and nation building.”

“A great majority of persons would have experienced a food or water borne disease at some point in their lives,” he noted. “This highlights the importance of making sure that the food we

eat is not contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, toxins and chemicals.”

The initiative, which commemorates World Health Day (April 7), includes several activities over the upcoming months — a message from the Minister of Health Clayton Burgin, media briefings, a panel discussion on April 13, among others — and will culminate with the celebration of World Food Day on October 16.

This year’s theme ‘From the farm to the plate – how safe is your food?’ focuses on improving food safety through public awareness campaigns and highlighting ongoing actions in this area.

According to Patsy Wyllie, chief health promotions officer, unhealthy and unsafe foods can “create a cycle of disease and malnutrition.”

She added: “Food borne diseases can impede socio-economic development by straining our health care system, and harm our national economies.”

Also present at the media briefing was Chief agricultural officer Ashley Caine, who stressed the importance of food safety from a global market point of view.

Cain explained that when food crises such as ‘mad cow’ disease occur, it causes global governments to tighten their importation rules and regulations, which in turn has a detrimental effect on small economies such as ours.

He further said that if these issues are not addressed properly, they can have “very sobering consequences” and that the Ministry of Agriculture is trying, through various programmes, to make farmers more aware – as well as build their capacity to respond.

Chief environmental health officer Neri James also gave brief remarks — warning that Vincentians need to take food safety more seriously, and that more care needs to be exhibited on farms and other outlets that handle raw foods. (JSV)