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Sugar label

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte is obviously an effective leader. In most, if not all cases, his pronouncements make agencies in the Executive Department act on matters of public concern. While this is positive, the situation also shows that some agencies, at least, do not have the initiative to do what should be done to serve the interest of the people.

One case in point is the pronouncement of President Duterte on his desire to have health warning on sugary drinks. Such pronouncement prompted the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to recommend to the Department of Health (DoH), which has the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under it, to require sugar label on commodities.

Such is an action that the DTI, DoH, and FDA should have done a long time ago. A pronouncement from the President was not necessary for these agencies to act since the needed actions are well within their mandates.

Let us wait and see if there will these agencies can and will follow through on the necessary actions to satisfy the President’s pronouncement. Aside from the sugar contents, these agencies are looking at requiring the font size and placement of the sugar labels.

Let us wait and see how the DTI, DoH, and FDA, for example will handle the immediate reaction from the Philippine Chamber of Food Manufacturers, which maintains that the labeling requirements do not have enough basis and that it should be studied further. This organization also maintains that the labeling requirement cannot be implemented right away because it requires changes in the production processes.

Do the concerned agencies have the same brand of political will as that of President Duterte?

With President Duterte’s brand of political will, the issues raised by the Philippine Chamber of Food Manufacturers can easily be countered as such issues are obviously intended to, at the very least, delay the action of the concerned government agencies.

Like in the case of cigarettes, the health warnings or labels will obviously drive sales of manufactured foods down and that is something that food manufacturers do not want, or will at the very least delay as long as they can.

What basis do food manufacturers need? Can’t the government do its role of informing or warning the public about the ill effects of products sold in the country? How difficult is it to change the label of food products? If food manufacturers are concerned about their current inventory of food product labels, how difficult will it be to use additional materials, like stickers, to satisfy the requirements for sugar labels or warnings.

It may be cliché, but the matter of putting sugar warning labels of food products is a simple case of having a way if there is a will.