Lawmaker pushes health warnings on food labels

Lawmaker pushes health warnings on food labels
By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 9, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – Similar to graphic warnings on cigarette packets, sugary and alcoholic drinks and junk food should be labeled with health warnings as well, a lawmaker said.

The Senate health committee and demography, chaired by Senator Pia Cayetano, is considering enacting a law that would require manufacturers of fizzy and other sugary beverages to post  warning labels on their products in an effort to educate the public about the health risks associated with overconsumption of these drinks.

The committee is also open to placing graphic warnings on high fat, low nutritional foods or junk foods that medical experts say are largely to blame for  obesity and being overweight.

Cayetano said the proposed bills would be tackled once both houses of Congress pass the picture-based Health Warning Act, which is aimed at “increasing the awareness of the cigarette consumers on the harmful effects of smoking.”

“But it is very likely that the Committee on Health and Demography would be entertaining similar bills that would address other health issues including harmful practices and harmful products. I would believe that the committee would be open to that,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano noted that the prevailing practice in US and Europe is to also put some warning labels and pictures on food products that have high calorie, sugar and alcohol content. “Should everything that we ingest be regulated? To some extent, yes,” she said.

According to Cayetano, developed countries like the US and Europe now require labelings on food products for babies as well as on food items consumed by the general public. Even fast food chains and restaurants are now required in some foreign countries to disclose the calorie and sugar contents of their menus, she pointed out.

“In the United States, there is a requirement that alcoholic beverages have some kind of statement that “Drinking may be injurious to pregnancy”, something like that.

A United Nations investigator last month called for efforts to launch negotiations on a global pact to tax unhealthy products or food high in saturated fats, salt and sugar amid a greater risk to health.

Belgian professor Olivier de Schutter, who has held his post of special rapporteur on the right to food since 2008, said unhealthy diets have now become a “greater threat to global health than tobacco.”

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile earlier noted that if the state policy is to impose PHWs to safeguard the health of its citizens, the government must also consider adopting the same on other indigestible “disease-causing products.”

The proposed bill is expected to be passed on third and final reading this week while the House health committee of the House of Representatives has come out with a report that was adopted by its members.

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