A revised national breadbasket with healthier items is expected to be implemented at the beginning of 2019, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said.
Earlier in the year, the Ministry of Health released the National Breadbasket Review Forum Report and Recommendations, proposing the removal of items considered unhealthy that contribute to the country’s high level of chronic non-communicable diseases from the national breadbasket, and replacing them with healthy alternatives.
Ministry representatives have been traveling throughout The Bahamas conducting consultations regarding the proposed changes to the breadbasket.
“We have several more stops on the breadbasket whistle-stop campaign,” Sands said.
“Certainly it is expected that by the end of this year, we should be able to say to the Price Control Commission, the Ministry of Labour, here are the final recommendations for the adjustment of the breadbasket.
“We have consulted widely with many stakeholders giving people an opportunity to opine and quite frankly there has been very little deviation from the recommendations that the Ministry of Health has made about the adjustment to the breadbasket items.
“As you know, sugar is already off; it is no longer a part of the breadbasket and so sugar now is subject to free market taxation.”
The report urged the government to consider a consumption tax on the fast food industry and remove value-added tax from items in the national breadbasket.
VAT has since been removed from breadbasket items.
The report stated that, “The current breadbasket items for price control contribute to a high-energy, dense diet of fat, saturated fat intake (mostly from animal sources), and added sugar, reduced intakes of complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber, and reduced fruit and vegetable intake.”
It concluded that there is an “urgent need” to revise the 1971 breadbasket, to include food content that aligns with recommendations of the national dietary guidelines; is low in sugar, fat and sodium; reflects foods that are high in fiber, ensures variety and diversity; is a good source of micronutrients and is minimally processed.
The current breadbasket includes: butter, margarine, cooking oil, mayonnaise, mustard, corned beef, canned meats, canned soups, broths, evaporated milk, condensed milk, fresh milk, cheese, eggs, rice, flour, grits, baby cereal, baby formula, baby food and bread.
The report recommended the removal of the margarine, mayonnaise, corned beef, canned meats, canned soups, broths and condensed milk.
These items are to be replaced with beans and peas, raw almonds, raw cashews, fresh oranges, fresh apples, root crops (such as sweet potato, pumpkin, cassava etc.), oatmeal, tuna (in water), sardines (in water) and mackerel (in water).
It also specifies the types of milk, flour and bread that should be included in the breadbasket.
Following the announcement of the revised breadbasket, the government was criticized by the opposition, which claimed that the removal of corned beef from the breadbasket was an attack on the Bahamian dietary culture.
Sands, who called the comment laughable, said at the time that corned beef was on probation, meaning it will remain in the breadbasket.
Pointing to the government’s launch of its 2018 STEPS health survey that will assess the health habits and risk factors that contribute to chronic non-communicable diseases in The Bahamas, Sands noted that those results may provide “overwhelmingly more stringent reasons to deal with corned beef with contempt”.