The immediate past Director of Nutrition at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (FAO), Prof Anna Lartey, has urged the Government of Ghana to impose a tax on junk food and sugary beverages to make them more expensive to deter people from consuming them.
She said the products have health complications but there were gradually becoming common on the streets in Ghana and the only way to stop people from consuming them was to make them more expensive.
According to Prof Lartey, a study conducted by the FAO on processed food revolution in Africa, showed that the intake of junk food in Sub-Saharan African countries such as Nigeria and Ghana were on the rise and could jeopardise the health of citizens if nothing is done about it.
She disclosed this at a 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) in Accra.
She said the poor nutritional value of food consumed by Ghanaians has resulted in the stunted growth of 19% of children, anaemia in 46% of women in their reproductive age, obesity in 33% of adults, high blood pressure in 23% of adults and diabetes in a lot of adults.
She said the implication of these on the economy was enormous as it cost Ghana $55 million to treat diabetes yearly, adding that sick leaves also reduce productivity.
“So, if we can change the way we eat and eat healthy diets we would be able to address diet-related non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, as well as obesity and save the country a lot of money”, she added.
She hinted that many Ghanaians could not eat fruits and vegetables to balance their diets because they [fruits and vegetables] were relatively expensive.
She suggested that the government could subsidise the production of fruits and vegetables with the tax revenue generated from junk food to make them more affordable to Ghanaians.
“It does not make sense if the fruits and vegetables that we want people to eat more are expensive but the junk food and sugar-sweetened beverages that we want people to consume less are getting cheaper and cheaper,” she added.
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 stakeholders in the Food System of Ghana to come with solutions to the challenges faced in the system to inform the government’s policy and commitment statement.
Ishmael Batoma, ISD