Gleaner- To guide Caricom countries on the shaping of policy surrounding ‘front of package’ labelling, or FOPL, standards for manufactured goods, the trade bloc will be conducting an eight-month study on what is currently a hot-button issue.

The impact study to be done by Caricom Private Sector Organisation will assess various FOPL models, said CPSO economic and trade consultant Dr Patrick Antoine while addressing a webinar CPSO on the issue on Thursday. The webinar was organised by CPSO and the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

The study, titled ‘The Caricom Impact Assessment Determination of an Appropriate FOPL Scheme and the Identification of a Harmonised Approach for Implementation’, will take place between May and December of this year.

“The related preliminary processes for this work has already commenced and we anticipate the unswerving support of the entire community in this ‘whole of society’ approach in facilitating the space required to undertake this work,” Antoine said.

The JMEA has said it is broadly on board with the FOPL initiative, which is meant to assist consumers make healthier food choices so as to reduce the incidences of non-communicable diseases, but they have concerns on its potential commercial impact, having noted in past statements that the warning labels could create the impression that a product was unhealthy.

“The JMEA believes that it is critical that introduction of such measures should be rooted in a model which provides best fit for the realities faced by Jamaica and other Caricom countries,” said Deputy President of the JMEA Jerome Miles during the webinar.

Both the JMEA and the CPSO are at loggerheads with the Pan American Health Organization, the regional body charged with overseeing health policy at a multilateral level. Miles noted that JMEA has registered concerns about the implementation of new FOPL standards using ‘PAHO Thresholds’.

The regional private sector has already adopted the FOPL models and labelling of major trading partners, Antoine noted. The steps now being taken by Caricom, he said, are meant to harmonise policies across the 15-member trading bloc, using the FOPL model that best suits the circumstances of Caricom businesses.

“We should use the best experiences in Jamaica and other Caricom countries, where we have done it well, in ensuring that we do not make these unforced errors in instituting models without the benefit of the scientific help or without looking to find the best FOPL model that is good for Caricom,” Antoine said.