Tax junk food, sweetened beverages to engender healthy living – Prof Lartey

Prof. Anna Lartey, immediate past Director of Nutrition at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO)

The immediate past Director of Nutrition at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Prof. Anna Lartey has urged the government to impose tax on junk food and sugar sweetened beverages so as to engender health living among citizens.

She said the nation’s nutrition index has been on the decline and urgent steps are needed to arrest the decline. A study conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on processed food revolution in Africa showed that the intake of junk food in sub-Saharan African countries, such as Nigeria and Ghana, was on the rise.

She made these remarks at a virtual sensitisation workshop on the UN Food Systems Summit and National Dialogue for the media, organised by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA).

She said the poor nutritional value of food consumed by Ghanaians has resulted in the stunted growth of 19 percent of children, anaemia in 46 percent of women in their reproductive age, obesity in 33 percent of adults, high blood pressure in 23 percent of adults and diabetes in a lot of adults.

She said it cost the nation US$55 million to address diabetes, in the form of diabetes medication and people taking seek leave due to the disease, which could rise to about US$153 million in 2045 if nothing was done to address the nutritional needs of Ghanaians.

“So, if we can change the way we eat and eat healthy diets we would be able to address diet related non-communicable disease such as diabetes as well as obesity and save the country a lot of money,” she added.

She said although many Ghanaians were encouraged to eat more fruit and vegetables because they were very nutritious and healthy many cannot afford them because they were relatively expensive.

She hinted that the government should subsidise the production of fruits and vegetables with the tax revenue generated from the junk food in order to make them more affordable to Ghanaians. “It does not make sense if the fruits and vegetables that we want people to eat more of are expensive but the junk food and sugar sweetened beverages that we want people to consume less of are getting cheaper and cheaper,” she added.

She said one major issue in the food system was the high rate of farm produce loses and waste which was one of the reasons why fruits and vegetables were expensive because the farmers consequently had to increase the prices of these items in order to be able to break even.

She added that the transportation of farm produce needed to be improved drastically in order to prevent the produce form sitting in the farms for weeks and sometimes even months after they have been harvested.

She further stated that to prevent the spoilage and wastage of these farm produce investments must also be made into research on how to increase the shelf life of these items.

The UN Food Systems Summit is scheduled for December, 2021 and the presidents of all countries are expected to present commitment statements on how they would improve the Food Systems in their countries.

The NDPC and MoFA have therefore started engaging all stakeholders in Ghana’s food system to come with solution to the challenges faced in the system to inform government policy and the commitment statement the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo would be giving at the UN Food Systems Summit.

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