Pacific Island Nation of Vanuatu Makes Imported Junk Food Illegal in Attempt to Prevent Obesity
Feb 20, 2017 06:34 AM EST
While global attempts are being made to prevent obesity and get rid of unhealthy food, the Pacific island region of Vanuatu is making the headlines for its plans to make junk food illegal. According to the Torba Tourism Council, all imported food coming from government functions and even tourist establishments across the province’s 13 islands will be outlawed.
As part of the provincial leaders’ effort to prevent obesity, these islands are expected to become places filled with local organic food. Prohibition of imported junk food will begin on March. The New York Times noted that such move comes as numerous nations in the Pacific are currently faced with the obesity crisis that is strongly attributed to the consumption of unhealthy food products.
Chairman Luke Dini from the Torba Tourism Council issued an official statement on their attempt to focus on banning junk food and to prevent obesity. According to a phone interview, Dini said the scheduled ban seeks to promote local agriculture. It is also their response to an increasing number of health conditions, such as diabetes, among residents in Port-Vila, the capital of Vanuatu. The chairman added that a wide-ranging ban on imported junk food may require at least two years of planning. The final decision on the specific food products to ban also lies on the national government.
Public health professionals who have examined the Pacific island nations opened up about such attempt to prevent obesity, saying that the imported junk food ban is a brave step to address the health issues of an isolated region comprised of 10 million citizens.
“Imagine if 75 million Americans had diabetes — that’s the scale of the epidemic we’re talking about in Vanuatu,” professor Roger Magnusson at Australia’s Sydney Law School stated. “Can anyone seriously say that Vanuatu doesn’t have the right to exercise its health sovereignty in every way possible to protect its population from an epidemic of that scale?”
It remains of paramount importance to take the necessary steps in tackling health concerns among the Pacific island nations. The costs of sending patients abroad to be treated through dialysis or kidney transplants cannot be sustained.
Vanuatu’s attempt to prevent obesity comes at this time when the country’s health crisis is driven by a shift from traditional root crop diets to meals comprised mainly of processed foods, sugar and refined starch. According to a 2014 study published in the Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice on 10 countries in the Pacific, Vanuatu had a diabetes rate of nearly 24 percent that was closely associated with the consumption of simple carbohydrates and animal proteins.