Industry demands input on drink labeling proposal
Tagaloa Eddie Wilson, President of the Samoa Association of Manufacturers and Exporters, said if the Government mandated new labeling requirements for soft drinks he hoped industry would be consulted about any changes.
Tagaloa's comments come after the country of Chile was found to have successfully lowered sugary drink consumption by nearly 25 per cent after making it compulsory to have front of label stickers identifying the drinks as high in sugar or high in calories.
One local sweet drink producer, Super Star Samoa, said for now they believe their nutritional information on the back of their drink labels is sufficient but would change if the Government required them to.
Manager Johnny Weng told the Samoa Observer that his company routinely test their beverages, which include a range of soft drinks and bottled water, to ensure they contain only what is on the label.
Mr. Weng said if the Government or the people of Samoa wanted to stop buying sugary drinks, he would think about a different business venture, but for now business is doing well.
Representing the manufacturers and exporters, Tagaloa (whose own company, Wilex Samoa produces chocolate and noni juice, among other products) said he does not believe the country needs to introduce something like the labels in Chile.
“I do not think that there is a necessity for such a scheme,” he said.
“And if such a scheme is to be implemented it must apply to both imported products - if they are to apply to local products.
“Whatever is required for local producers to comply with under any new or current legislation- should be a requirement as well for imported beverages.”
He said under present labeling and nutritional standards, manufacturers are meeting their responsibilities to consumers to help them make educated choices about what they eat and drink.
But should any such move be made, Tagaloa said wide consultation with the sector would be needed, and that legislation “should not marginalise locally produced products against imported products of same type.”
The Government of Samoa has not yet suggested it would implement any such measures. But results from Chile, also battling high rates of non-communicable diseases, suggest a coordinated approach towards managing the advertising and selling of unhealthy food has been effective.
Commenting on the research about the legal changes, public health expert Dr. Colin Tukuitonga said the self-regulation approach to the food and beverage industry was proving unsuccessfully.
“Relying on self-regulation by the soft drinks industry and the food industry has not worked, will not work and it’s time to take a stronger stand on these thing,” he told the Samoa Observer.
“I think Governments have been unwilling to intervene to that extent and they have relied on self-regulation.
“They have said to the soft drink industry, the food industry: label your products better, put reliable information on the labels of your products, but no one has gone to the point of insisting that these things are done […] that is clearly the next step.”