Protect Our Children’s Health: Introduce Octagonal Warning Labels in Jamaica

Campaign highlights the importance of an effective food policy environment that supports healthy nutrition for children by implementing octagonal warning labels on food packages.

25 May 2022
Protect Our Children's Health
Heart Foundation of Jamaica

KINGSTON, MAY 25, 2022 – Octagonal warning labels on foods high in fat, sodium and sugar are more effective at identifying unhealthy foods. That’s the finding from a 2021 Pan American Health Organization/University of Technology/Ministry of Health & Wellness study, which the Heart Foundation of Jamaica has used to fortify its evidenced-based mass media campaign Protect Our Children’s Health. The campaign was launched today in recognition of Child Month, and it highlights the importance of an effective food policy environment that supports healthy nutrition for children by implementing octagonal warning labels on food packages that can enable parents to make healthier food choices for their children.

The Campaign also highlights the health harms of pre-packaged foods high in sodium, sugar, and fats. The campaign is supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Caribbean Institute for Health Research (CAIHR), Jamaica Association of Professionals in Nutrition and Dietetics (JAPINAD), Paediatric Association of Jamaica (PAJ), Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ), and the Diabetes Association of Jamaica (DAJ), with a united call to action: Give us octagonal warning labels on the front of food packages!

The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that 80 per cent of deaths in Jamaica are caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the vulnerability of people living with NCDs, especially type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, and the urgent need for food policies that can help reduce the public health burden of these preventable diseases. Our children are also at risk; the WHO also estimated that 36 per cent of Jamaican children between 13 and 15 are overweight or obese. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health highlighted that obesity increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.

UNICEF Representative for Jamaica, Mariko Kagoshima, said, “Our children have a right to healthy food and adequate nutrition. All of us from policymakers to parents must ensure that this right is respected and protected by providing a healthy food environment. Evidence shows that clear and simple front-of-package octagonal warning labels allow families to better identify unhealthy foods – helping to positively impact their children's health for life. This type of labeling will also support the implementation of the proposed School Nutrition Policy as a tool to identify healthier foods for sale and consumption in and around schools”.

Executive Director of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, Deborah Chen, said, “The Heart Foundation continues to support the call for black octagonal warning labels as the gold standard for food labels. Local and global research show that the high-in octagon warning labels are the most effective in enabling consumers to identify unhealthy foods. Policies should be evidence based. Using a less effective label will defeat the intended purpose of the label. Jamaicans have the right to know what is in their food.  We are using the opportunity of Child Month to urge our parents, adults, and Government to support the implementation of these warning labels to help protect our children’s health. We would like to see a future where the burden of NCDs is significantly reduced. Children must be encouraged to develop healthy eating habits if this to become a reality.”

The Protect Our Children’s Health campaign will be aired on TV, radio, print and digital media. The campaign will have several messages, including “Ultra-processed foods high in sodium, fats, and sugar increase the risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer”; “Give us octagonal warning labels on packaged foods”; and “Protect our children’s health”.

Persons are encouraged to share messages about the campaign on social media using the hashtags: #ProtectOurChildren, #WeSupportFOPWL, #WhatsInOurFood? #GiveUsTheFacts, #FrontofPack. They can also like, comment, share or repost content from the Instagram and Facebook pages using the handle, @heartfoundationja.

Media contacts

K. Moorish Cooke
Communications Officer
Heart Foundation of Jamaica
Tel: +1-876-960-8293

Additional resources

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in Jamaica, visit www.unicef.org/jamaica.

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